Government authorities are fast tracking the release of permits for biomass power plants to begin operating and hastening the completion of submarine cables to increase the power supply for Negros and Panay, and bring down the cost of electricity.
The assurance was given at a House Committee on Energy virtual meeting Tuesday, October 12, chaired by Deputy Majority Leader and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, who said it was held at the insistence of Rep. Francisco Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd District).
Representatives from Negros and Panay through House Resolution 2206 had sought an inquiry into the power rate increases in their areas.
“Consumers should not shoulder the cost arising from lack of power supply and congestion due to the damage to the NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) Cebu-Negros submarine transmission cable. Power generation companies should roll back electricity rates and refund consumers,” Benitez, principal author of HR 2206, said.
The Department of Public Works and Highways accidentally damaged the submarine cable of the NGCP in Amlan town, Negros Oriental, sometime in June that consequently cut off the island’s power supply from Cebu and drove up electricity rates for consumers.
“We need to hold the DOE (Department of Energy) and the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) to their timelines to increase transmission capacities, to place online and fully utilize our internal renewable power generation capabilities. But we also need to see where the cooperatives can improve their services to the consumers with the least amount of costs,” Benitez said after the hearing.
Agnes Devanadera, ERC chairperson, told the congressmen at the meeting that they are helping fast track the issuance of Certificates of Compliance and Provisional Authorities to Operate biomass power plants in Negros in order to increase the power available for Negros and Panay.
Their short term solution to the submarine cable problem was to suspend the collection of the cost of congestion until the complete restoration and operationalization of the transmission line or until a more applicable pricing and settlement solution is ordered by the commission, she said.
The ERC also ordered the refund of congestion and other applicable charges attributed to the line outage already collected for the billing months of June and August, Devanadera said.
Benitez thanked the ERC for the promise of a refund due to the increase in prices, but said there is still much to be done to clarify the issues involved and he looks forward to the next hearing.
Randy Galang, NGCP Engineering Project Management Department head, said damaged on June 15 was the 18-kilometer 138 kV submarine cables that connect Amlan, Negros Oriental, with Samboan, Cebu.
The NGCP’s best case scenario is to complete the repair of the submarine cable by February 2022 depending on the extent of the damage, Galang said.
Under a worst case scenario if the water penetration in the submarine cable is more than 2,000 meters they will have to replace the entire 18 kilometers stretch with completion date targeted on November 21, 2023.
NGCP Visayas Systems Planning head Christian Ereño said they are hastening the completion of the Cebu-Negros-Panay 230 kV Backbone project to address the need for transmission of power between Cebu and Negros.
The representatives from Negros Occidental present at the Committee on Energy hearing aside from Benitez were Leo Rafael Cueva – second district, Juliet Marie Ferrer – fourth district, Greg Gasataya – Bacolod and Stephen Paduano – Abang Lingkod.
Danny Pondevilla – Central Negros Electric Cooperative acting general manager, Power Watch Negros Advocates secretary-general Wennie Sancho, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Negros president Ariel Guides, Kuryente.org national coordinator Nic Satur Jr. and Alliance of Concerned Transport in Occidental Negros (ACTION) chairperson Teddy Macainan also joined the meeting.*