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Improvement works on Camotes power to start next week
By: Mylen Manto | Published Thursday, August 13, 2020
Gov. Gwen Garcia presides over a meeting with Camotes LGUs, power distributors, power generators and CEBECO 1,2,3 on the recurring power problems in Camotes group of islands. (Tonee Despojo)

Soon, residents of the Camotes group of islands will no longer have to suffer from seven hours of brownouts. 

This is because the Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) I, II, and III will start the reconfiguration of the protection design of the transmission lines next week, to be followed by the upgrading of distribution lines from single-phase to three-phase.

The National Power Corporation-Special Power Utilities Group (NPC-SPUG) also committed to increase its current dependable capacity from 2.8 megawatts to 3.5 megawatts in a week, as they fell 200 kilowatts short after encountering problems with one of their generators on Tuesday, August 11.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia met the officials of the Camotes Group of Islands, Cebeco I, II, and III, Camotes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Celco), and NPC-SPUG last August 12 to address the over three-decade power issue in the islands.

Cebeco III General Manager Virgilio Fortich told the governor that they had long been aware of the islands’ problem. Cebeco Head Fr. Francisco “Paking” Silva also told him to help Camotes when they talked two weeks ago.

Last week, Cebeco sent three engineers in Camotes to assess their power problems and found out that there is a need to change or enhance the protection settings of their power system and Celco’s distribution lines. 

Celco, through its general manager Emmanuel Suarez, told the Camotes Group of Islands Inter-Local Government Unit (LGU) Cooperation that “geckos” caused the frequent and unnecessary brownouts in the islands during a meeting on May 26, 2020.

“Karon naa nay klaro nga direction, nga naa natay timeline, naay klaro nga expected nga deliverables. In other words, kani atong short-term, immediate-term nga solution ang installation sa correction sa design sa transmission lines. That will take 4 days for the entire Island,” Garcia said.

She added that the correction will be of great help to avoid unnecessary brownouts caused by geckos, rats, snakes, and others.

Fortich said that the reconfiguration of the protection settings will start on August 19. This will improve the system stability and minimize damage to equipment. After that, more than 30 linemen will be sent to Camotes on August 24. 

Garcia told the mayors of Camotes to send notice to their constituents that there will be scheduled brownouts once Cebeco starts its work.

From January to July 2020, there were 99 brownouts in the islands caused by the NPC power generators while brownouts caused by the Celco distribution lines occurred 306 times.

According to the frequency index for brownouts of the Energy Regulatory Commission, the tolerable number of power trips is only 30 times per year.

“You better shape up,” Garcia told Celco as the power provider committed to cooperate with Cebeco. 

Meanwhile, Garcia told NPC-SPUG, through its officer-in-charge for the Visayas Eng. Timoteo Diacor, to increase their dependable capacity to 8 megawatts until October 12, 2020, which he assured to do.

Fortich expressed that it would still be a problem if the NPC will not increase its dependable capacity even if the distribution lines will be corrected and the power system protection will be enhanced.

Garcia warned the NPC-SPUG that if they won’t deliver on their promise, she will review the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the Province of Cebu and NPC entered into for the use of the provincial lot for the construction of their building in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City.

“Ang ako sad niini nga klaro gyud nga dunay mga commitments on the part of Celco and on the part of NPC kay importante pud baya ang power generators kay lagi kinahanglan man kon unsay trabahuon diri sa distribution side, andam ang generation side pud aron magtugma,” the governor said.

Diacor informed the governor that they have additional four generation sets to be installed in Camotes. However, it was still under procurement stage after two failed biddings. 

Garcia advised Diacor to put into writing why the generation sets were not procured yet so the Capitol can make a reply.

Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Donato Villa said under the Procurement Act, negotiation will follow after two failed biddings. 

Garcia said the power outages caused negative consequences to the hospital, rural health units (RHUs), barangay health office, business establishments, and households in Camotes. 

Mayor Alfredo “Al” Arquillano, Jr. of San Francisco town expressed his gratitude to the governor for her and Cebeco’s intervention to solve the brownouts which residents have gotten used to already.

“Pasalamat kaayo mi sa initiative ni Gov kay dugay na kaayo ni nga problema namo. Nahimo na ning normal namo ang brownout, naanad na,” he said.

“Ang paningkamot nimo Gov malaumon mi nga matagaan og solusyon,”Arquillano added.

Also, Pilar town Mayor Manuel Santiago as well as the representatives of Poro and Tudela towns expressed their gratitude to Garcia for acting on their decades-long problem. (Mylen Manto)