Senate not convinced NEA did best to contain Palawan brownouts

By Lenie Lectura – August 22, 2017

from Business Mirror

A REPORT on the frequent brownouts in Palawan submitted by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) failed to convince a lawmaker the agency did its best to address the problem.

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, said Tuesday the report submitted by NEA was “unsatisfactory as it failed to provide new information and specific action steps to put a stop to Palawan’s frequent brownouts.”

The senator said the NEA’s charter, Republic Act (RA) 10531, empowers the agency to “formulate and impose administrative sanctions and penalties and when warranted, file criminal cases” against electric cooperatives (ECs) found negligent of their obligations.

The law, likewise, authorizes the NEA to “issue preventive or disciplinary measures including, but not limited to, suspension or removal and replacement of any or all of the members of the board of directors and officers of the electric cooperative, as the NEA may deem fit and necessary and to take any other remedial measures as the law or any agreement or arrangement with NEA may provide.”

However, the NEA report did not recommend disciplinary measures or penalties against the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) for its delayed resolution of the worsening power situation in its covered areas. Instead, NEA passed on the task of disciplining the electric cooperative to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“Armed with the necessary powers and being the overall regulator of ECs in the country, NEA can do much more,” Gatchalian said.

The senator filed a resolution seeking to probe deeper into the frequent brownouts that continue to plague the province of Palawan.

Proposed Senate Resolution 470, directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the matter, puts under scrutiny the compliance of Paleco with the Epira Law (RA 9136) and the performance of NEA as the regulator of electric cooperatives under RA 10531.

“During the first six months of this year, Palawan residents suffered through an average of 13 brownout hours during 10 power interruptions per month. The Senate must exercise its oversight powers to hold stakeholders accountable and finally put an end to this mess,” Gatchalian said.

At a formal dialogue held by the Energy Committee with Paleco, NEA, and private energy stakeholders last August 3, the frequent brownouts in Puerto Princesa City were caused by the inability of DMCI Power Corp. to provide 25 megawatts of electricity pledged under its 2012 power supply agreement with Paleco. As a result, the committee directed NEA to conduct an investigation into the matter.

The Technical Services and Engineering Department of NEA recently conducted an investigation into reliability performance of all ECs. It issued a show cause order to all ECs who have violated the reliability standards, directing such ECs why they should not be administratively sanctioned for such violations.

As to any violation committed by the ECs in connection with the Philippine Distribution Code (PDC) and Philippine Grid Code (PGC), NEA, however, said it is leaving the responsibility to ERC to sanction these cooperatives.

NEA Deputy Administrator Artis Nikki Tortola said the agency only assists the ECs in its compliance with the PDC and PGC, which are both ERC issuances.

“However, by way of sanctions and penalties, or what may be the liability of Paleco, NEA merely assists the ECs in its compliance through engineering assistance, funding and management and any violations committed in connection with any ERC issuances may be sanctioned by the appropriate body, which is the ERC,” he said. “Furthermore, NEA will look into Paleco’s management lapses, which resulted to its violation of the standards.”