Power dominates Philippines election campaign

23 February 2016, Week 07, Issue 345

Continuing power shortages and blackouts in the Philippines have become a major issue in the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for May.

All five candidates are promising action to meet the country’s growing demand for electricity, which continues to exceed supply heavily in many regions, reports said.

The frequency of power cuts across the country is so bad that the Department of Energy (DOE) has set up a task force to try to ensure there are no blackouts on election day, May 9, The Philippine Star said.

The situation on the major southern island of Mindanao has worsened, with bombings blamed on Islamic breakaway groups that disabled transmission lines, the Philippine Inquirer said. More than a dozen cable towers have been toppled, the paper said.

Mindanao has a population of 22 million, more than the whole of Cambodia.

With a population of about 100 million the Philippines has an installed generating capacity of only 18,000 MW. This is less than Malaysia with a population of only 29 million.

The outgoing government has laid plans to try to raise capacity by 12,000 MW by the end of 2018, the Manila Bulletin said. However, President Benigno Aquino cannot seek re-election under the constitution.

Congress refused to grant Aquino special powers one year ago to tackle the electricity shortage by buying in quick-fix mobile diesel and natural gas generators.

Efforts to tap the country’s large geothermal potential have been stifled by politics and bureaucracy, the Manila Bulletin said.

However, coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) are expected to play an increasing role in the country’s energy mix, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its 2015 regional outlook report.

Aquino opened a 300-MW, coal-fired TPP at Davao in Mindanao in January, after delays caused by blackouts, the Inquirer said. Two-thirds of coal burned in the Philippines is imported, mainly from Indonesia, the IEA said.

The May elections will elect a new Senate and a House of Representatives as well as the president.

Edited by

Richard Lockhart


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