04/14/2023, 17.12
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Occidental Mindoro: Four hours of power daily due to unpaid government subsidies

Power supply in the province has been reduced to 7.5 MW, down from peak hour demand of 27 MW, “until further notice". Utility companies blame the problem on the government-owned National Power Corporation. As a result, people face several problems, ranging from doing the laundry to operating hospital dialysis machines.

Manila (AsiaNews) – In the province of Western Mindoro, electricity will only be available for four hours a day, the Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO), announced.

The utility company has an agreement with the owner of the only power plant in the province, the Occidental Mindoro Consolidated Power Corporation (OMCPC), which will operate only one generator with a 7.5-megawatt (MW) capacity “until further notice.” This will meet only 20 per cent of local needs.

Occidental Mindoro has a population of 525,354, with more than 20 per cent living below the poverty line, according to 2020 data. In recent weeks, many have protested the protracted energy crisis.

“It’s now very hard to heat water. It’s hard to iron the children’s uniforms. The laundry piles up and our appliances are breaking down,” said a protest organiser.

A "blackout concert" is planned in the city of San José, the provincial capital, to protest.

As a result of the lack of power, the provincial governor was forced to suspend classes in all public and private schools for three days earlier this month.

While urging residents to use solar energy as much as possible, he noted that the energy crisis must be addressed by the national government led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In hospitals, the situation is such that doctors have complained that they are under great pressure, unable to do their work.

One healthcare provider, the Mindoro Occidental Medical Mission Group Health Service Cooperative (MOMMGHS) spent three million Philippine pesos (just over US$ 54,000) to buy generators to power dialysis machines.

For its CEO, Dr Monica Bracamonte, “the dialysis patients and staff are in so much stress, especially when the power outage occurs during a dialysis session."

“Having electricity (and water) becomes a privilege,” she noted, adding that generators are no longer a short-term solution, but have become a necessity.

The energy crisis is nothing new in the province, which covers half of the Philippine island of Mindoro. Problems begun in 2019 with certain contracts and in recent years the situation has been worsening.

In a resolution issued on 25 March, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) reported that the province’s power demand is around 27 MW with 20 MW supplied by the OMCPC’s bunker-fired diesel power plant in San José, in the southern part of the province.

Previously, OMECO was able to rely on an additional 4 MW from a power plant operated by the government-owned National Power Corporation (NPC), located in Mamburao on the opposite side of the province.

However, the contract expired in December 2021 and the power plant ceased operations thereafter.

What is more, the OMCPC has refused to operate at full capacity claiming that it has no funds to purchase fuel due to late subsidy payments from the National Power Corporation.

According to OMECO President Eleanor Costibolo, unpaid subsidies are the "root of the problem”

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