Press Release
April 10, 2016

Recto: Mindanao blackouts imperil May polls
No-el due to No-el must be avoided

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto today called on the executive department to act swiftly on the blackouts hitting large swaths of Mindanao, saying power failure in the island of 12.5 million voters on election day could seriously affect the results of the national polls.

"No-el due to no-el. Or no elections due to no electricity will raise the political temperature there. That would be a big problem. It will make the Kidapawan incident a mere mosquito bite," Recto said.

Recto cited several reasons why a 'no-el caused no-el" in Mindanao would "have frightening repercussions."

"A Mindanaoan is in the ballot for the presidency. It's a tight race. One region, one big city can make a difference on the final presidential and vice presidential vote tally, so you can just imagine the frustration of the Mindanaoans if they won't be able to vote for their bets on May 9," Recto said.

"Almost one in four voters are in Mindanao. It has twice as many voters of Metro Manila. Kung sa Manila or Quezon City nangyayari ang blackouts, sobrang laking isyu na ito," Recto said.

Of the 54,363,844 registered voters for the May 9 polls, 12,457,285 will vote in Mindanao's 33 cities and 422 towns.

Recto issued the call for swift action on the Mindanao power situation as intermittent blackouts have been hitting its major cities recently.

"Based on reports, it seems no place is exempt from power cutoffs," Recto said.

"Our people in Mindanao are losing sleep over the power outages not only because of heat, but also due to fear that blackouts in the area will last until the May elections," Recto said.

Recto said "darkness is the best breeding ground for all sorts of conspiracy theories. Evil lurks in the dark. But if there's light, if there's electricity, all speculations, and even sabotage plans, stop. "

Recto is urging the two task forces formed by Malacañang to deliver on their tasks to ensure power for May elections and address the problem of rotating blackouts in Mindanao.

Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada has announced that the two operating task forces -the Power Task Force Election and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Securing Energy Facilities- are "conducting preparatory works, maintenance, and monitoring to provide power supply come election period."

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has admitted that Mindanao residents may suffer longer power interruptions this year due to delay in repairs of electric towers earlier bombed in North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

This early, contingency plans must be readied, Recto said, "including sourcing of locally-available portable generators that will power voting precincts."

"Electrical wirings of schools must be checked. Kung maraming generators sa lokal, baka pwede maidentify na ito nang mga LGUs, local Comelec officials and civic groups. Ilang linggo na lang eleksyon na. Bayanihan ang kailangan dito," he said.

On paper, Mindanao had available capacity of 1,579 megawatts (MW) as of January 2016, below Mindanao's peak demand of 1,711 MW.

For April 11, power outlook is bleak with 1,445 MW available capacity, system peak of 1,458 MW, and gross reserve of -13 MW.

Earlier, Recto recommended the appointment of an Energy undersecretary for Mindanao who shall be the "focal person" on the island's power supply, to fix blackouts like the intermittent ones which have been hitting its major cities recently.

"A point person and consolidator of all energy matters related to Mindanao is the one the next administration may need," Recto said.

One of the functions of the recommended Energy Undersecretary for Mindanao, Recto said, is "to keep tabs and keep the levers moving" on 290 pending renewable energy projects in Mindanao which are projected to feed an additional 3,000 MW to the grid by 2020.

The biggest chunk of these are 242 hydroelectrical projects with a combined potential installed capacity of 2,148 MW, as per monitoring by the Mindanao Development Authority.

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