Power fully restored in Panay

Bear with me. This will be an intensely reflective piece, as this writer turns 59 tomorrow. It has been an amazing, rocky ride, with sport being the one constant I have been able to lean on, build a life around, and share with many people. We all hope that we leave the world a little better than we found it. Some of us strive to do that as a matter of course. Without sport, I don’t know where I would be. My grandfather Jose Unson (Daddy Peping to family members) died at the age of 79, so I subconsciously pegged 80 as the age at which I would clock out. So when I turned 40, mortality and legacy became an increasingly important part of my life and career.

My saintly, grandmother, Teofila Bravo Unson, turns 99 the day after tomorrow. Though already bedridden and suffering from dementia, she remains an anchor to our past, the prosperous, wonderful times when she and our Daddy Peping kept us all together with Sundays at their home. We could just walk in, and forget all of our problems. There was always an abundance of food, television, air-conditioning, joke-telling, and the grown-ups’ sport of choice: mahjong. As the eldest grandchild, I had my fill of sports on TV, TIME and Newswek, Daddy Peping’s books, Mama Upe’s baking, and… babysitting my younger cousins, which itself should be an Olympic sport. When my grandfather passed away in 1996, Mama Upe moved back to Pangasinan, and nobody stepped into the heroic void he left behind. That was almost 30 years ago.

One of the reasons I love sport so much is because, as Howard Cosell once said, “Sports is the toy department of human life.” More than that, it is our God-given great laboratory, where we can learn about ourselves and other people in an environment where it may hurt less, and we can evolve before leaping out into the great unknown of the world. If people cheat in sports, then you know they’re going to be shady in real life. If people practice, play hard, give it their all, and don’t go out of their way to hurt anyone else, then you know you can trust them. That’s more or less how it goes.

My first fascination was with basketball at age five. My uncle Romy, my mother’s youngest brother, is nine years older, so he was the one closest to my age. He introduced me to the sport we all love. I followed him around the neighborhood and street games and tournaments. The following year, my physical weaknesses overtook me, and I needed to swim every day in a public pool for two years to strengthen my lungs and overcome asthma. I had two curves in my spine that needed straightening out, which meant painful stretching and flexibility exercises for more than a year. Migraines added another dimension of pain, and being stronger helped minimize and eventually eliminate them. Lastly, flat feet, which still can’t be fixed, made it uncomfortable to stay still. I indulged in a lot of sports that involved running. In short, sports gave me a normal life. Even better, I became competitive and motivated by seeing how my work on myself made me feel at least equal to others.

But like any athlete, we sometimes let ourselves go. We’ve seen the majority of retired players pack on weight, slow down, become… normal. Those who could once fly became earthbound. The fast, we can now catch up with. The work on one’s self never really ends. That’s the hard lesson I’m learning, at least. And, like any aging athlete, you try to find new strengths, and use your mind more. It is a journey unlike any other. And it is a journey by choice.

This year, may we all find o ur new strengths, repair whatever harm we’ve done to one another, and simply become better people.

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has formed a blacklisting committee to strengthen the government’s drive against unscrupulous manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, consultants and hoarders of agricultural products.

Laurel issued Special Order 11 creating the blacklisting committee, which coincided with an on going DA revamp.

“In the interest of the service and to ensure the proper conduct of investigations related to the complaints involving the commission of offenses or violations during competitive bidding and contract implementation by manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, contractors and consultants, in accordance with Republic Act No. 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act… a blacklisting committee is hereby created which shall serve as the central blacklisting body of the Department of Agriculture (DA),” he said. Laurel designated DA legal service director Willie Ann Angsiy and procurement division chief Melinda Deyto as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the blacklisting committee.

He also appointed DA internal audit service director Christopher Bañas to be a member of the committee.

Laurel added that under SO 11, the blacklisting committee is tasked to evaluate complaints initiated by the bids and awards committee and verify the grounds for blacklisting.

The committee will also “gather facts and evidence or take testimony to ascertain the truthfulness of the allegations in complaints, summon parties to hearing where it may examine further documentary evidence, receive verbal testimony and propound questions to the witnesses that may be presented, determine if reasonable cause exists to recommend the issuance of suspension or withdrawal of the respondent-contractor and the forfeiture of bid security.”

Laurel gave the blacklisting committee 30 days from the receipt of complaints to issue a resolution containing its findings and recommendations.

Lawmakers have questioned the failure of the Bureau of Plant Industry to blacklist importers allegedly involved in hoarding and manipulation of agricultural products.

Meanwhile, Benguet farmers yesterday called on the DA to strengthen the operation of the National Anti-Smuggling Task Force against smuggled vegetables, as they blamed the flooding of agricultural products in the slump in the farmgate price of highland vegetables, particularly carrots and cabbages.

In a radio interview, Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative general manager Augusta Balanoy said that carrots, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are rotting as there are no buyers. “Actually, since last year, we have been appealing to the government to revive the operations of the National Anti-Smuggling Task Force, as many smuggled vegetables enter the country,” Balanoy said.

She added that highland vegetables are given away for free in various areas because of a lack of buyers. “As of today, many highland vegetables have yet to be sold. Farmers are only harvesting now after they did not harvest in December and many vegetables are still in the farms,” Balanoy said.

She said that December was supposed to be a peak season amid high demand during the holidays. “The demand should be doubled. Farmers prepared for the peak season and increased their production. However, the demand was very low. There was only an increase of 30 to 40 percent in the purchase of the buyers. We conducted relief operations. We coordinated with the barangays instead of dumping the vegetables,” Balanoy noted.

For his part, farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairman Rosendo So confirmed a slump in the farmgate price of cabbage, as it reached between P5 and P10 per kilo.?So added that despite the decrease in the farmgate price of vegetables, the retail price of agricultural products remains high.

He said Kadiwa centers should be tapped to allow Benguet farmers to market to their products.

“The Kadiwa centers in Manila should be mobilized as the prices of vegetables are still high,” So said in an interview with The STAR. He also encouraged the public to eat more vegetables to support the farmers. “The consumers should support our vegetable farmers with the low prices,” So said.

He said the low farmgate price does not reflect the retail price.

“The difference between the farmgate price and retail price is still big. That is the problem when the President was still the secretary of the DA and up to now, it is still the problem,” So said.

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez has directed the House of Representatives’ transportation committee to investigate the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP), saying he has received reports that it is fraught with corruption.

In a statement, Romualdez yesterday also said he is urging the Department of Transportation to conduct a “complete review” of the program before implementing it.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has reported a 76 percent consolidation rate nationwide for jeepneys and UV Express Service units, claiming success in the early stage of the government’s controversial PUVMP.

LTFRB data showed a total of 145,721 UV and jeepney units have consolidated nationwide.

The House leader, however, said his office has received reports that “corrupt practices” may have tainted the conceptualization and planned implementation PUVMP, which requires operators and drivers to “consolidate” or organize into groups or cooperatives to ensure efficiency and better management and accountability.

Only those that have consolidated would be allowed to ply routes utilizing modern and supposedly environment-friendly jeepneys, which are actually mini-buses.

“The reports allege that existing transport officials are in cahoots with previous officials in negotiating for the imported modern jeepney units that will replace the old units,” he said.

The government originally gave jeepney drivers and operators until the end of December 2023 to join or organize into cooperatives or get banned from plying their usual routes. It extended the deadline, however, for another 30 days when it became evident that a sizeable number of jeepney operators and drivers had not yet consolidated.

Romualdez clarified that he supports the program and only wants assurance of “enough measures that would protect jeepney drivers.”

“While we stride towards modernity and efficiency, we remain steadfast in safeguarding the welfare and livelihood of our jeepney drivers, who are an integral part of this journey. Together, we can achieve a transportation system that is reflective of the Philippines’ growth, respecting our traditions while paving the way for a more sustainable future,” he maintained.

He also said the jeepney has “long been a symbol of our nation’s vibrant culture and enduring spirit.”

“As we embrace progress and innovation, it is imperative that we address the need for modern, efficient and environmentally friendly transport systems,” he added.

Romualdez explained the PUVMP is “not just about upgrading vehicles,” as it is more of a “comprehensive plan to rejuvenate our urban transportation landscape, making it safer, more reliable and in tune with sustainable practices.”

He called jeepney drivers “the hardworking individuals who have been the backbone of our local transport industry for decades.”

“Their welfare is our primordial concern. As we transition to modernized jeepneys, we recognize the challenges faced by drivers and operators,” he added.

Meanwhile, the national consolidation rate was 82 percent for UV Express and 73.6 percent for jeepneys.

The LTFRB said it has reached its target numbers for consolidation, even in Metro Manila.

A total of 25,629 jeepney units met the Dec. 31 deadline as against the 22,284 confirmed traditional units in the LTFRB system.

“The campaign for consolidation during the last stretch was effective. The manner by which agencies have been opening offices and relaxing their requirements and reaching out to operators was effective in trying to reach what we have expected,” board member Riza Marie Paches said at a press briefing.

The LTFRB said it is still gathering data in terms of the actual number of routes that would be affected.

Paches allayed fears of a potential transport crisis once the unconsolidated units are taken off the road across the country.

The Board has given unconsolidated drivers and operators a reprieve, as they would be able to serve in selected routes.

Over 60,000 PUVs could be left without franchises and would not be allowed to ply their routes once the month-long reprieve for unconsolidated units ends.

Paches explained that there are consolidated transport service entities that can serve affected routes, citing “redundancy of supply” in terms of transport modes.

She explained that commuters would feel the decline in supply, but the LTFRB is coming up with contingency measures such as issuing special permits to meet the demand.

MANILA, Philippines — The days-long power outages are finally over after the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) fully restored loads to Panay Island.

As of noon of Jan. 5, NGCP announced that it was “removing restriction of demand and is fully restoring loads at Panay Island following the synchronization of the Palm Concepcion Power Corp. (PCPC) to the grid at 1:33 a.m. this morning, and their declaration that their unit is now stable.”

The synchronization of PCPC, which could generate 135 megawatts, to the grid was apparently the final touch that the NGCP needed to restore the power of Panay Island to normalcy.

With the PCPC synchronization, 347.2 megawatts are being served by Panay power plants, with 5.7 MW exported elsewhere to grid, for a total of 341.4 MW served loads.

At 12:31 p.m., MORE Electric and Power Corp., the sole distribution utility in Iloilo City, announced that all its six substations had been restored following the stabilization of the grid system in Panay.

Just like electric cooperatives on Panay Island, the MORE Power franchise area experienced a total blackout starting at 3:07 p.m. on Jan. 2.

Rotational loading was carried out starting afternoon of Jan. 3 after receiving clearance from the NGCP.

It emphasized that “in the interest of public safety and well-being, and to avoid jeopardizing lives, hospitals and other vital institutions providing essential functions were given higher priority as we continued the distribution of the limited power supply throughout the franchise area.”

But before the announcement, Mayor Jerry Treñas had already issued an order mandating a half-day work suspension at City Hall, citing prolonged power interruptions.

Treñas added that despite previous assurances from the NGCP on power restoration, the situation persists, prompting necessary measures. The use of biometrics has been suspended to accommodate affected employees.

Meanwhile, at 12:30 p.m., the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) I has announced that it has also energized all feeders in its coverage area.

At that same time, ILECO III also made the same announcement.

At 12:35 p.m., ILECO II confirmed that it has fully energized all of its areas.

In a statement earlier, the NGCP pointed out that the shutdowns of power plants in Panay Island caused the power outage on Jan. 2.

“The unscheduled maintenance shutdowns of the largest power plants in Panay island was the primary cause of the power interruption. We emphasize the need for improved planning to ensure sufficient generation per island, with a well-balanced mix of fuels and technology,” NGCP said.

NGCP said that it first monitored a tripping at the Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC) Unit 1 in Lapaz, Iloilo City, due to an “internal issue.”

The power tripping then cascaded to PEDC Unit 2, PCPC and to other power plants in Panay Island.

NGCP spokesman Reagahn Alcantara said that when PEDC 1 tripped, there was no major outage because they were able to absorb the loss of load.

But when two PEDC units tripped, “it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Based on their monitoring, there was multiple tripping of plants. As for the reason, “that’s what we are trying to determine,” he said.

Alongside the DOE and ERC, Alcantara said they are trying to find the cause. They are also asking records from plants to corroborate their investigation and couldn’t rule out any cause for now.

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