Overall, I agree with my friend, Dave Starr. He wrote recently about how things have improved a lot in the Philippines in the past few years that he has lived here. Having lived in Mindanao for 10 years now, I can attest that things have improved drastically here in the past decade. Roads, Internet, all kind of infrastructure is so much better than it was juts ten years ago, it is often unbelievable to me when I see the changes.
There is one area of infrastructure that has gotten worse recently, though. I have written several times in the past several months about the brownout situation here. Firstly, let me explain what a brownout is. Many newer readers, those not so familiar with the Philippines might think it means that the voltage goes lower, causing lights to burn less brightly than normal. I made a comment on Facebook recently about brownouts and somebody mentioned about lights going dim. No, I explained… I mean blackouts! Yes, here in the Philippines they generally call it a brownout when there is no power at all, so that is what I am talking about.
Mindanao is in particularly bad shape in 2010 when it comes to the electricity situation. Other parts of the Philippines have power problems too, but not nearly like what is happening in Mindanao. Many parts of Mindanao have no power 12 hours a day now – 7 days per week! Can you imagine living with electricity only half the time? That is just normal here in 2010.
Here in Davao City, where I live, we have been pretty luck so far this year. Brownouts in Davao have been limited to only 2 hours at a time, and usually only about 2 times per week. About a week ago, that changed, though. Davao Light and Power has extended rotating brownouts to 3 hours now, and we are generally have daily brownouts now – every day. From time to time, we will make it through a full day without a brownout, but that is generally no more than once per week. So, we are not putting up with 3 hours per day, at least 6 days per week in Davao. Hey, I guess I feel a bit guilty complaining about that when people just up the road from us are sweating through 12 hours of brownouts, but what I am getting at is that in the past week or so, it has become obvious that the power situation is getting worse instead of better.
Why is Davao getting fewer brownouts than any other part of Mindanao? Thankfully, Davao Light and Power has a Power Generating plant powered by diesel, located in Bajada. I don’t think that any other cities in Mindanao have such a facility. That Generating plant is able to supply Davao City with an extra 35 Mw of power per day. Also, over the past several months, the Sibulan Hydro plant has been coming online in Davao, which will supply Davao with a total of about another 30 Mw of power daily. We are already getting about 12 Mw from Sibulan, but by the end of May the final parts of the Sibulan facility will be online, and provide an additional 18 Mw over what we have been getting. So, it is expected that by the end of this month, the brownout situation in Davao might ease up a bit. Why are these facilities providing power only for Davao instead of for all of Mindanao, or to all of the Mindanao Grid? Because these were private investments by Aboitiz, owner of Davao Light and Power. If power is sufficient in Davao, this power could be sold to the grid, but since there is a shortage in Davao, Davao Light will power Davao first, since it is Dabawenyos who funded the projects through their electricity purchases.
One of the problems right now, in addition to having longer and more frequent brownouts, is that we are currently in the midst of the summer here. So, it is hotter, and drier than normal. Thus, at the time when power is most needed, it is also at it’s worst in many years.
The latest word is that if normal levels of rainfall return to the island soon, we can expect out power situation to become normal by sometime in December 2010. Until then, we will be experiencing brownouts. In the past month or so, we are starting to see some rain activity in Davao, but nothing near normal, so we can only hope that the rainfall will increase, and get our lakes and rivers on the island back to normal levels, which would ease greatly our power shortages. Until then… we’ll have to keep sweating!