Line men fix an electric line in Payatas, Quezon City, March 13, 2022. Manila Electric Co. is implementing lower power rates this month. — PHILIPPINE STAR /MICHAEL VARCAS

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said the Panay power outage has been referred to an interim grid management committee for investigation, adding that appropriate penalties will be imposed after the panel delivers its findings.

“After the investigation, if penalties are called for, then we will commence proper proceedings to allow the relevant parties to answer and, if answers are not acceptable, impose penalties,” ERC Chairperson Monalisa C. Dimalanta said in a Viber message.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) reported on Tuesday that multiple power plants tripped, including units of Panay Energy Development Corp. and Palm Concepcion Power Corp. (PCPC).

Due to the plant outages, some 452 megawatts (MW) became unavailable, causing the NGCP to raise a yellow alert on the Visayas grid.

The yellow alert was lifted at 9:01 p.m. on Tuesday.

According to an NGCP update on Thursday, some 244.6 MW of electricity is currently being generated by Panay power plants.

The Visayas grid will need about 300 MW to stabilize, and is awaiting the return of a 135-MW PCPC facility.

The plant is targeted to be synchronized with the grid between 10 p.m. and 12 midnight on Jan. 4.

Citing an initial report, Ms. Dimalanta said equipment failure at PCPC caused the plant to trip. Operators are waiting for the unit to cool down before it can be restarted.

MORE Electric and Power Corp., the sole electric distribution utility in Iloilo City, has been affected by the power disruption, as well as seven electric cooperatives on the island.

As of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, almost 50% of MORE’s customers were still not receiving power, it said. The company has imposed rotational outages every three hours due to the insufficient power supply.

“We need to investigate this further because it is impossible that all plants just decided to go offline all at the same time, or that they all failed on their own at the same time,” Ms. Dimalanta said.

“There must be something that led to those serial consequences among the generation plants,” she added.

Ms. Dimalanta said there should have been systems in place to prevent such occurrences.

She said that NGCP can direct distribution utilities to drop load to reduce demand to the level of available supply, thereby stabilizing the system.

“The system operator also controls the dispatch of plants so it could have initiated measures also on that end,” she said.

“We are reviewing whether these measures were undertaken and whether they were enough, or if anything else can be improved,” she added.

The NGCP has said that load restoration will be done “conservatively, by matching loads to restored generation, to prevent repeated voltage failure.”

“The people must understand that we can only transmit power, we do not generate power,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Legislators have called on the NGCP and the Department of Energy (DoE) to look into the Western Visayas outages.

“The DoE and the NGCP must understand the gravity of this situation and act decisively to resolve it,” Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said in a statement. “They should get their acts together immediately.”

He said constant power interruptions hamper the livelihoods and the delivery of basic services to the region’s citizens.

Mr. Zubiri called on the DoE and NGCP to be transparent in implementing measures to address the outages.

Party-list Rep. France L. Castro called on the NGCP to take accountability for the blackouts that have left some parts of Panay without electricity since Jan. 2.

In a statement, she also called on MORE Electric and Power Corp., which supplies power to Iloilo City, to improve its coordination with the electric system grid operators.

“Does (MORE Power) even have a system to help protect the grid from collapsing, like a load dropping mechanism?” Ms. Castro said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Joel J. Villanueva said the government needs a short-term and long-term strategy for dealing with power disruptions, include ensuring that power plants are properly maintained.

“We also need to continue exploring other sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar to keep up with the DoE’s goal of a power generation mix target of 35% by 2030,” he said in a statement.

Citing DoE data, Mr. Villanueva said about half of the power plants in the Philippines are at least 20 years old.

“The situation is no longer tolerable, and the DoE and the NGCP must urgently address this issue before irreparable damage is done to our communities,” Mr. Zubiri said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera and John Victor D. Ordoñez