Blackout: Iloilo losing up to P500 million daily

Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9

Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are — shall we say — attainable. Here are a few from social media:

Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.

Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.

Stop procrastinating—tomorrow.

Get lost without any help from Siri.

Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.

The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).

But the nation first needed to return to the basics — the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).

The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). Tim Gustafson

In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?

Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.

The STAR Cover (January 5, 2023)

MANILA, Philippines — Only a few new COVID cases were recorded during the holidays, according to the Department of Health (DOH), as it denied reports that a new wave of the coronavirus was sweeping Metro Manila.

“From November to December, the percentage of occupied ICU beds for COVID cases remained low at 16 percent at its highest and averaged at 12 percent,” the DOH said in a statement.

The heal th agency said that during the same period, the number of occupied non-ICU beds for COVID cases was also low, at 19 percent at its highest, and averaged at 17 percent. It said a majority of the cases were mild.

“DOH data shows continuous low transmission and mild presentation of COVID locally,” the DOH said.

“Our data also shows a consistently low percentage of severe and critical cases among hospital admissions, currently at 11 percent,” it added.

The DOH said the low figures were achieved as Filipinos chose healthy behavior and heeded the call for multiple layers of protection – using face masks when needed, going to well-ventilated areas ad staying at home when ill,” the agency said.

Health officials also cited high vaccination coverage for the infections.

“Critical cases are minimized, because eight of every 10 eligible senior citizens are protected by a primary vaccine series.”

From Dec. 26, 2023 to Jan. 1, the DOH recorded 3,147 new cases.

The average number of new cases per day this week stood at 450, down 10 percent recorded from Dec. 19 to 25 with 501.

Of the new cases, only 40 or 1.28 percent were considered serious or critically ill.

Health officials said they would closely monitor the trend for any change.

“Everyone is reminded not to be complacent about COVID. We can gather and carry on with our activities, mindful always to choose well-ventilated and good airflow areas,” the DOH said.

The health agency warned the public against a false circulating message attributed to a doctor of St. Luke’s Medical Center that a new COID wave is affecting Metro Manila.

“There is no credible evidence or official announcement from health authorities supporting the assertion of a surge in COVID in St, Luke’s,” the DOH said.

It urged the public to source information only from legitimate sources and platforms such as the health department and other official health organizations.

“Misinformation can contribute to unnecessary panic and fear,” it said.

MANILA, Philippines — Iloilo City stands to lose around between P400 million to P500 million daily – or P 1.5 billion in three days – following the massive blackout that hit Panay Island since Jan. 2.

“In three days, we would have lost P1.5 billion. What a way to start the new year!” Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said yesterday, referring to the figures estimated by the city’s Local Economic Development & Investment Promotion (LEDIP) office.

It used as basis Iloilo City’s annual gross domestic product or the total economic output of the city in one year, which stands at P145.05 billion.

“On the average, Iloilo City economy is at P347 million per day. But that was the data for 2022. Plus, we should also consider other intermediate and primary processes output that could also possibly contribute on our GDP,” LEDIP officer Velma Jane Lao said.

With the power outages, she said that the services sector is the hardest hit.

“Although residents have trooped to hotels and malls, these establishments have to ramp up their expenses on generator sets and fuel. Machines have bogged down. Restaurants have complained of food spoilage,” she said.

On the government side, Lao said they could not deliver their work well because of the unfavorable working conditions due to sweltering heat.

Treñas likewise described the current situation in Panay and some parts of Guimaras Island as “terrible,” lamenting that the improvement of transmission lines has been delayed several times.

“Now we are suffering because of these delays,” he said.

“The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines needs to shape up. Congress needs to investigate the matter and restudy their franchise. The national government through the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the President should use all the powers in their mandate to ensure that the transmission lines of NGCP should be improved at the earliest possible time,” he said.

Following another round of massive power outages, the DOE has reminded the NGCP to adhere to its responsibilities as system operator in ensuring supply security and reliability of the grid. It added that NGCP could have exercised, in a better manner, its responsibility in balancing the power grid.

The prolonged power outages in Panay Island have forced the suspension of classes in at least 733 public schools, which could go higher if private schools and higher education institutions would also be included.

The Department of Education (DepEd) – Region 6 said it had received reports of 733 public schools offering basic education that have suspended their classes on Jan. 3 and 4 due to massive power outages.

DepEd 6 regional information officer Hernani Escullar Jr. said a majority of these schools are in the city and province of Iloilo. He said local chief executives declared the suspension of classes in 26 localities.

There are 67 schools in Iloilo City, including the Iloilo National High School, that suspended classes, while there are hundreds in the entire province.

He said the two days of class suspension could have an impact on the scheduled activities intended for the learners, and that make-up classes would still be subject for the approval of school’s division superintendents. What’s important, he added, is for schools to meet the minimum of 200 and the maximum of 220 school days.

Senators yesterday said they would investigate the power outage that marred the New Year in Panay island, disrupting business operations and leaving households in the dark on the second day of 2024.

“I am absolutely incensed and dismayed by the persistent power outages plaguing some provinces in Western Visayas, particularly in Iloilo. This situation is no longer tolerable, and the Department of Energy and the National Grid Corp. must urgently address this issue before irreparable damage is done to our communities,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

Among those who seek to file a resolution calling for an inquiry in aid of legislation are Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Ronald dela Rosa.

“I will file a resolution seeking an investigation on that issue. This is a big setback to the economy in Panay island and nearby provinces of Negros,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino in a virtual press briefing yesterday.

Gatchalian stressed the need to investigate the power outage that disrupted businesses in Iloilo City and the entire Panay Island, which are economic drivers in Visayas.

“I will immediately file a resolution to investigate this matter and to propose policy recommendations to prevent power disruptions in the future,” Gatchalian said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he would support a Senate inquiry not just on NGCP, but also the power generation plants that shut down without notice as well the distribution companies.

For her part, Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, slammed NGCP for failing to prevent a repeat of the blackout in Panay amid the summer heat in April 27-29 last year.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva added that according to DOE data, 50 percent of the power plants in the country are 20 years old, as he stressed the need for proper maintenance of power plants and the shift to renewable energy like wind and solar power.

At the House of Representatives, lawmakers are also pushing for an inquiry to pinpoint liability into the massive blackout.

“The power outages that set the entire Panay Island and portions of Negros Island into darkness since Jan. 2 warrant scrutiny by the House in the exercise of its congressional oversight function to safeguard public welfare,” Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda said.

Without any advance notice, the NGCP issued an advisory that all power plants in Panay Island had to be shut down at around 2:27 p.m.

“Soon after, the Negros-Panay grid was totally out,” Baronda said.

For her part, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said that the NGCP should be held accountable for the island-wide blackout in Panay as well as some parts of Negros since Jan. 2.

“As it is though it is not just the power generators’ and NGCP’s fault, the distribution utility namely More Electric and Power Corp. of the Razon group of companies is also responsible for this,” Castro added.

Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin also joined the fray, describing as “unacceptable” the sudden power outages, assuring everyone that “those responsible for the blackout would face accountability.”

Garin said she is bent on filing a resolution that would pave the way for an investigation on the incident, as she stressed the need for urgent solutions to ensure a consistent and reliable electricity supply.

Meanwhile, the League of Cities of the Philippines is backing a thorough investigation on the power outage that affected Panay island on Tuesday, citing economic losses and concerns on peace, order and security.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, LCP president, said the ERC and NGCP should investigate and implement corrective measures immediately.

The league noted that the unplanned power outage impacted economic activities that resulted in revenue losses and also posed a safety risk to residents in the region.

It added that there should be enough investments in the country’s power grid to meet the growing demand for electricity in the country.

The NGCP had blamed the unscheduled maintenance shutdowns of the largest power plants in Panay as the cause of the massive outage. –  Delon Porcalla, Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Romina Cabrera

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