Ilaw national convenor Agnes "Beng" Garcia and Ilaw youth convenor Francine Pradez present to the media their findings and recommendations on the country's power problem in a press conference in Max's Restaurant Roxas Boulevard in Manila on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. – Photo by Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

MANILA – Ilaw on Wednesday (July 10) presented their key findings and provided solution to the energy problem that affected the businesses in key cities of the country, especially during power outages.

In a press conference in Max’s Restaurant, Ilaw presented the focus group discussion on economic impact of blackouts to businesses in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan; Baguio City in Benguet and Tagum City in Davao del Sur.

It was noted that Ilaw came to Manila to widen the information dissemination in connection with the impact of blackouts to businesses in the cities of Puerto Princesa City, Baguio and Tagum.

Ilaw national convenor Agnes “Beng” Garcia, a business owner and a consumer, said “the discussion on power is very important because it is part of our lives and our livelihood.”

Garcia cited the yellow alerts and orange alerts pertaining to the status of power availability in certain areas of the country.

She mentioned about the blackout that transpired in Panay Island as well as in other parts of the country that affected the lives and the livelihood of the people in the said areas.

Francine Pradez, Ilaw youth convenor in Pangasinan, said that based on their studies in some parts of the country, the country is affected by power outages such as brownouts and blackouts.

Pradez said that they have 35 participants across the wide section of the society in their focus group discussions to collect data on how much is the cost of the leftover on power outages, MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and a study to present to the local government unit (LGU) to formulate the solution to such power outages.

Each area was represented by the MSMEs, and other sectors, among others.

There are limitations in their study such as in the cities of Puerto Princesa in Luzon Grid as well as in Baguio and Tagum in Mindanao Grid.

The Facebook is the prime social media platform of the participants such as the business owners, representatives and members of the Chambers of Commerce.

Small business are with less than P10,000; medium businesses are not exceeding P30,000 and big businesses with P100,000 in daily earnings. 

In their key findings and recommendations, Ilaw disclosed the aggregated net losses for all target areas such that 26 out of 35 respondents the lose ranged from PHP10,000 to PHP30,000 per day.

“And if you are a small business, this PHP10,000 loss is a big thing,” Garcia said.

“Because of this loss, such businesses limit their operations, decrease the number of their employees and resort to other cost-cutting measures,” she added.

In Puerto Princesa City, the tourism industry is the most affected, especially the “bread and butter industry” of the hotel industry.

“The small businesses are really hard hit by these blackouts. It’s really the small businesses that area affected such as their appliances are damaged when blackouts happen without any prior notice,” Garcia said.

They were advised to procure ‘ISO-certified” appliances, which Garcia said “was a good advice but not practical and economical on the part of small businesses.”

“Blackouts are fatal to the businesses in Puerto Princesa City,” she said.

In Baguio City, retail and restaurants are hardly hit by blackouts such that their businesses slow down due to limited power, and the weak supplementary light affects the employees’ mobility as well as the quality of their food.

Garcia added that businesses in Baguio City only cope up during weekends and when there is sufficient power supply, noting that, the “work from home” employees are also affected by blackouts.

She stressed that “solar power” does not operate well in Baguio City as the area is “cool”, adding that, “if there is blackout, you don’t have electricity and you cannot perform laundry chores.”

Garcia pointed out that there are mountainuous areas in Baguio City that are insufficient in available power considering the terrain in those far-flung areas. 

In Tagum City, Pradez said, the food and beverage industry is affected by blackouts such that ice cream is melted and they have difficult situation in producing the batch of ice cream and preserving their products.

“The longer the power blackouts, the longer the businesses in Tagum City recuperate from their losses,” Pradez said.

“We have seen the initiatives of the consumers, but without the corresponding response from the cooperatives,” she added.

Garcia underscored the grievances of the business owners due to power cuts such as employment and workforce efficiency, service and product quality and reputation damage in the sense that it affects the mental condition of the employees, which result in low customer satisfaction, and the accounts due the suppliers were not even settled.  

She also cited the blackouts affect the outcome if the cases are solved in the sense that without proper ventilation, cases are rescheduled in courts and the litigants are just ordered to come back when power is back.

She lambasted the “red tape” in government, especially in the power sector. 

“Politics meddle in electric cooperatives. We have done everything that we could, but it seems nothing happens such as in the case of electric cooperative in Tagum City,” Garcia said.

From Puerto Princesa, Baguio to Tagum, overall, generally they said “blackouts are unfair to all businesses.”

“Puerta Princesa participants are saying that electric cooperatives are less than cooperative,” Garcia said.

Pradez also said that their concern is not only the financial problem, considering that there is energy problem.

“Kapag mababa ang ating local economy, it also weakens our national economy,” Pradez said.

She noted that solar panels and other sources of energy and the like are expensive.

They are offering critical insights and recommendations and not only presenting the impact of blackouts to businesses in areas such as the cities of Puerto Princesa, Baguio and Tagum.

Garcia would like to have tax incentives for those who will resort to alternative sources of energy such as renewal energy, and that the LGUs and the electric cooperatives should improve the grid capability.

“Let us not only give it to the government. Let’s empower ourselves.” Garcia said.

Pradez called for a roadmap to energy sufficiency, a nationwide summit of consumers and electric cooperatives, and the creation of an energy task force for all energy sectors in a more centralized and solidified effort toward a more impactful responses to power outages.

“We have to improve our facility when it comes to energy sector. We are more than open to cooperate with the LGUs,” Pradez said.