In an editorial piece we published back in November 2021, when then President Rodrigo Duterte was lashing out at the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) for the constant power outages, we called attention to the Palawan Island Energy Development Plan (PIEDP), a strategic plan crafted by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the period 2014–2035. It was a master plan that identified forward-looking solutions to the power woes we were enduring then—the same power woes we continue to endure today, this time capped by the recent steep rise in the local cost of electricity.
The DOE highly touted the PIEDP as an energy planning model.
It was envisioned that by 2017, Palawan would have a stable supply of electricity coming from a mix of fossil-based power plants run by bunker oil or diesel and renewable energy coming from hydropower sources as well as solar and wind power. By that period, Palawan should already be producing more energy than it needs—around 295 GWh, and by 2025, this will even increase to 635 GWh.
By 2016, the National Power Corporation should have already connected Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay, El Nido, and Rizal to the main grid. Dumaran Island in 2017 should have been linked to the mainland grid via a submarine power cable traversing the Dumaran Channel.
By now, the Calamian Group of Islands should have already established a transmission loop around Busuanga Island, and a submarine cable has connected Culion to Busuanga.
Both PALECO and the Busuanga Island Electric Cooperative (BISELCO) should have by now covered about 700 sitios in 234 barangays through an expanded distribution network totaling 1,515 km of distribution lines.
By around this time, we should be witnessing a bold program to energize the areas not reached by the distribution utilities through a solar-based program supposedly being undertaken jointly by the DOE, the provincial government, and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
Unfortunately, none of these have happened. And now, Palawan is confronting a double whammy of shortages in supply and steep pricing triggered by a DOE policy removing cost subsidies.
The blame game is ongoing, with PALECO taking the heat from consumers. During his tenure, President Duterte even threatened to privatize the cooperative, implying that it was ineffective.
Last week, Palawan’s congressional representatives filed a resolution calling for a probe into PALECO. The embattled cooperative, for its part, sought to explain itself in a press conference, blaming national government policy and bureaucratic bottlenecks for its problems.
How exhaustive the congressional inquiry on the Palawan power situation will be is up to the probers. At the very least, we hope they will take the time to dust off the PIEDP document from the shelves and see who dropped the ball.