How much are businesses losing due to brownouts

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2013 04:03 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2013 12:03 AM

Zamboanga City, which has started to become a junkyard of broken appliances, saw its business sector lose as much as P600 million in just three months due to the continuous prolonged brownouts.

Since early this year, this city in the southernmost part of the country has been suffering from an average of 8 hours of power blackout each day--with 3 to 4 hours brownout in the morning and another same number of hours in the evening.

Along the streets of Zamboanga City, appliance repair shops have already started working on the sidewalks due to the quantity of electric hardware malfunctioning because of the erratic power supply in the area. Electric fans, air conditioners and refrigerators were identified as the badly hit among appliances making their way to repair shops.

One huge hotel in downtown area showed ABS-CBN its storage area now filled with broken appliances from air conditioners to refrigerators and television sets due to erratic power surges.

"In our case, we replace about four air conditioners every month," said hotel owner Danny Lim.

Lim, who is also the vice president of the Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce, added the operating cost of business rises by as much as 30% everyday.

"Last thing I want to do is to lay off employees," he said. "There might come a time when we'll just stay home rather than do business."

Boboy Valerio, consultant of the Industrial Group of Zamboanga City and secretary general of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines in the region, said retrenchment is not far-fetched given the depressed business climate in this region.

"If this will continue in the next months na break-even lang, it will prejudice the future life of business," he said.

"Then management will think about retrenchment," he continued.

Valerio further said that based on the estimate of their group, some P600 million worth of income and opportunities have been lost since January this year due to power blackouts.

Valerio's group comprises 12 of the biggest factories in the city including oil mill companies, plywood companies, and firms from the seaweed processing industry.

"They are forced to cope with higher cost" he stressed.

Most, if not all, business establishments in downtown Zamboanga are using gas or diesel to run power generators during brownouts.

Small-scale businesses in the region are more affected as they cannot provide customers with power generators.

Such is the case for the small cafeteria of Hanida Bakir which is already losing customers after the videoke machine broke down due to erratic power surges.

Hanida's cook Julius also suffers in the dark while preparing food for the cafeteria.

"Yung videoke namin nasira, hindi na maka score pag may kumakanta, tapos yung mga karne namin nasisira na, nabubulok," he said.

Hanida noted "Nagrereklamo yung mga customers, hindi daw malamig, walang ice, tapos ang init init pa, yung videoke nagkasira sira na."

With no customers and low income, Hanida can't afford to have the videoke repaired nor buy a generator to attract customers who prefer joints with electric supply.

Valerio said the power demand of the city has been pegged at 85 megawatts but the power plants can only supply up to an average of 60 megawatts due to lack of water for the hydroelectric power plants.

He said he wonders how the Aquino Administration could have overlooked this problem when this was already happening even before 2010, and President Benigno Aquino III himself included power crisis in his platform when he campaigned in Mindanao that year.

While his group acknowledges the long-term solutions of the administration, the seemingly lack of short-term solution, Valerio said, is what baffles Mindanaoans.

"Lahat sila nakatingin sa long term, yung short term wala, hindi mamitigitate your worsening situation," Valerio said.