Electric cooperatives in Eastern Visayas declare state of emergency

THE Federation of Rural Electric Cooperatives (Frecor) in Eastern Visayas region has declared a state of emergency to allow its members to find other options, such as procurement of mobile/modular generator sets, to restore power supply in quake-hit Leyte as well as in Samar and Biliran islands.

Allan Laniba, general manager of Leyte III Electric Cooperative (Leyeco III), confirmed Frecor's declaration Wednesday, July 12. The federation is composed of 11 electric cooperatives that serve around 600,000 member-consumers in Eastern Visayas.

Majority of Leyte and the islands of Samar, Bohol and Biliran remain isolated from the Visayas power grid as of Wednesday, almost a week after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck Leyte and damaged power generation and transmission facilities.

READ: Power supply still unstable in Visayas

In a statement, the federation demanded that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) provide ancillary power supply by sending to Eastern Visayas power barges from Cebu and Iloilo.

The group also requested the Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission and NGCP to "review the Transmission Development Plan of NGCP and find alternate ways to climate- or calamity-proof its transmission facilities."

The electric cooperatives further requested Administrator Edgardo Masongsong of the National Electrification Administration to work for more resolute efforts to solve the crisis.

Laniba said the federation issued the declaration after a meeting with NGCP representatives Tuesday, July 11, in Leyte revealed that even if power supply from Cebu becomes available, Eastern Visayas would still be without electricity because transmission facilities in Ormoc were damaged by the July 6 earthquake.

During their meeting, Laniba said NGCP representatives assured that "they have solutions, but they could not give a timeline."

"We are not blaming NGCP (grid operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) because this is a calamity. But we ask that they be upfront and tell us the extent of the damage and give us a timeline (for the restoration of the damaged facilities)," Laniba said in a phone interview Wednesday, July 12.

"We are willing to work hand-in-hand with them. We have even offered to provide linemen. They just need to tell us what exactly the problem is," he added.

Crescente Lopena, Technical Services Department manager of Leyte V Electric Cooperative (Leyeco V), said only the towns of Leyte, Calubian, San Isidro, Tabango and Villaba as well as parts of Palompon, Kananga and Matag-ob are benefiting from the power supply that Cebu has been transmitting through the Tabango submarine cable.

Supply, however, is limited because the Tabango substation has only a 5-MVA transformer. As a result, the towns of Palompon, Kananga and Matag-ob are experiencing brownouts every four or six hours.

"If we switch off Palompon, Kananga and Matag-ob would have electricity and vice versa. We have scheduled the outages every four or six hours," Lopena said in a phone interview.

Ormoc City and the towns of Albuera, Merida and Isabel are not getting any power supply from the Visayas grid and are currently relying on generator sets.

NGCP had constructed a bypass line to be able to transmit power from Cebu to Tabango and straight to the Ormoc substation, without having to pass the damaged marshalling station of power producer Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

The marshalling substation is where the power from the Malitbog, Upper Mahiao and Mahanagdong power plants is "pooled together" prior to transmitting this to Leyte, Bohol, Cebu and Luzon as needed. EDC earlier said the substation sustained "visible damage."

The Tabango-Ormoc bypass line is also supposed to provide feedback power that will allow EDC to power up a unit of its Tongonan geothermal plant, which Lopena said could provide around 40 megawatts (MW) to the grid.

However, all six transformers at the Ormoc substation were also found damaged by the earthquake. Four are "unserviceable," Laniba said quoting NGCP officials.

Laniba said NGCP had told them that three transformers from Cebu would be transported to Ormoc to replace the damaged transformers.

"But they could not tell us when this would happen," he added.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Lopena said they were still awaiting the transformers from Cebu.

In the meantime, Lopena said they will install a new 10-MVA transformer at their Tabango substation to improve the power situation in their coverage area. But this will take one week, Lopena said.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, NGCP said in an advisory that it energized EDC's marshalling substation at 7:20 p.m., but de-energized it at 7:41 p.m. "at EDC’s request due to technical difficulties by a still undetermined cause."

The July 6 quake, which was tectonic in origin, killed two people as well as caused surface rupture along the Leyte Fault and a building to collapse in Kananga. Aftershocks continue to shake Leyte. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)