Power partly restored at Zamboanga airport

By Roel Pareño, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 26 2012 07:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2012 03:38 PM

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Power at the Zamboanga International Airport here was partly restored as of yesterday but personnel worked around the clock to restore power to approach indicator lights along the runway to allow night landing, an airport official revealed.

Airport manager Celso Bayabos said the approach lights guide incoming aircraft for landing at night.

He said the precision approach indicator lights and the approach lights power lines have not been restored, which caused them to limit flight operations during nighttime.

The approach lights were among the electronic devices that were damaged by fluctuating electrical power during power outages in Mindanao.

Bayabos said their air navigation personnel have partially restored some of the equipment’s power lines that included the power supply for the control tower communication system and the two-way system runway lights.

Bayabos said they could not yet determine when they could fully normalize the equipment system since some of them have to be replaced with imported parts.

Bayabos said he notified the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in Manila of the need to replace the constant circuit regulator (CCR), a wiring apparatus that is not locally available.

He said he was informed by the CAAP deputy director for air navigation that they would be salvaging the CCR from other airports in the country that are not currently using such equipment.

Following the equipment malfunction incident, Bayabos admitted they started to experience trauma every time blackout occurs.

Bayabos noted the local power producer was announcing another power outage but the intermittent blackouts and sudden surges of electricity have caused some of the electronic equipment to malfunction.

The intermittent power outages and surges forced them to limit operations of the airport to daytime hours, he said.

“Currently, we are operating only daytime flights and the airline companies have to adjust their flight schedules,” Bayabos said.

Malacañang said the government is addressing the problem of power outages in Mindanao, repeating what President Aquino said over the weekend that the administration is aware of the situation.

“We are continuing to work to address the situation in Mindanao,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

When asked whether the government can guarantee there will be no blackouts both in Metro Manila and Mindanao during the Holy Week, Valte replied: “The situation in Mindanao is different from here in Luzon.”

“The President clarified some reports of a looming power crisis in Metro Manila. The President said there is a power surplus that is available to Luzon,” Valte said.

She also pointed to what the President said on Friday that contingency measures the government had in place have “averted” a possible power outage in Metro Manila.

“So (the measures included power) rotation to spread the load if one of the power substations has a problem,” Valte added.

As for Mindanao, short- and long-term solutions have already been laid out by the President following the proposal of Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

“The short-term solutions have been presented as well as the long-term solutions and the government is working to address it. Those short-term solutions are really the power barges and the President did state during the briefing that the power distributors have to share in the cost of those barges,” she said.

‘Man made’ crisis

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, however, said the electricity supply crisis in Mindanao “is artificial and man-made.”

“We have enough power plants that can supply the electricity needs of our people. We have hydroelectric plants. We even have power barges. We cannot understand that supply is still short,” he said.

According to Rodriguez, he received information that some companies engaged in generating and distributing electricity are manipulating supply to force prices up.

He urged the government to thoroughly look into the power situation in Mindanao and punish generation, transmission and distribution companies found to be manipulating supply.

Rodriguez cited the statement of an official of the Department of Energy that there are enough power plants in Mindanao but that the current shortage is an issue of transmission and distribution.

Earlier, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said some people are sabotaging power supply for their own or their companies’ benefit.

Over the weekend, Zamboanga City was hit by a blackout, forcing airport authorities to cancel flights.

As an immediate solution to the power shortage problem, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño urged the administration to invoke the provisions of the Constitution on emergencies and temporarily take over and run power companies.

He said a drastic situation like the one obtaining in Mindanao calls for drastic action.

“It appears that there is enough power supply. The authorities should find out where the problem lies,” he said.

While Rodriguez described the power crisis in Mindanao as man-made, Rep. Sherwin Tugna of the party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption said the situation has been brought about “by a confluence of the dry season, climate change and the continued pillage of forests.”

“The power shortage in Mindanao can only be addressed by looking at it from a wider perspective. One is the reality of climate change. Compared to the temporal aspect of the dry season, this is longer- lasting. It permanently impacts on the generation of power from dams,” Tugna said.

He said another factor is deforestation. “It does not really matter if it is state-sanctioned or illegal. The continued destruction of our few remaining forests progressively decreases the water levels of our dams.”

“Concerned officials have confirmed that logging in Mindanao’s sensitive areas continues, despite multiple tragedies that occurred last year.”

Tugna pointed out Mindanao generates a sizable amount of its electricity from hydropower plants. He said the two issues – deforestation and electrification – are inextricable, entangled and very connected.

“For the region’s power production to stop plunging, the felling of trees should cease,” he said.

Tugna described the proposed solution proposed of the Department of Energy to lessen power shortages in Mindanao – river dredging – as temporary, reactive and a mere palliative. – Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz