United We Are Stronger

The people of Puerto Galera unite behind their leaders to avoid the blackout scheduled on August 18. Following a resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan headed by Vice Mayor Marlon Lopez whereby the Mindoro Grid Corporation (MGC) must secure all permits before Mayor RDI grants the permit to bring in 6 massive modular generators. One of the pre-requisite is to apply for an Environmental Clearance Certification (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Every business in Puerto Galera is asked to comply with the very same requirements. Being the very first, and 1 out of 3 UNESCO – Man and Biosphere Reserves in the country, and one of the most important tourist destinations, the new administration takes the protection of the environment and their people very serious. “We can’t simply allow anyone to not comply with our ordinances, especially if it affects the people of Puerto Galera and our precious environment” says Mayor Ilagan, after being ask why he is not dropping the ECC requirement and issue the permit considering the urgency of the situation.

“Let me tell you, that the Sangguniang Bayan has my full support”, Ilagan added.

A near panic broke out after news made the round that National Power Corporation (NPC) will cut off the 69kva power lines between Calapan and Puerto Galera since the mayor did not issue the permit. Things heated up when Noe Lineses, Editor of the Fortnightly Journal started an Online Petition on change.org which became viral with more than 1300 people signing in less than 24 hours. This also became the hottest topic on social media. Netizens discussed the topic, making their voices heard and gained national interest. Robert Evora of the Manila Standard wrote an article which was posted in the newspaper’s website. The tension rose, forced politicians and management of the power company to find an acceptable solution to the problem.

Typhoon Nona which hit the province on December 16, 2015 had minor effects in the power supply of Puerto Galera. However, the southern towns of Mindoro were less lucky as they sustained tremendous damage to their power line from the typhoon. It took months to normalize the their power supply and the authorities made a request for the total rehabilitation of 69kv transmission line managed by the NPC.

The 20-year old power line is generally made of wood pole structures and is now fast deteriorating or quite vulnerable. It was for that reason that the rehabilitation involves a total replacement of all wooden poles with steel poles to enhance reliability but will require a total shutdown of the system. The need to install modular generating units at least with 6Mw capacity in the town of Puerto Galera is  imperative during the entire period of the line rehabilitation says NPC in a letter to then ORMECO Genaral Manager Engr. Patrocinio Panagsagan last March 2017.

ORMECO did in fact proposed to build another line before the old line to PG will be demolished, but to do that was easier said than done. The acquisition of Right of Way on the existing 69kv line to Puerto Galera is really tough and complex as there are lots of standing issues with many land owners remaining despite its decades of existence. To complete the acquisition of the Right of Way for another 69kv line that is running parallel with the existing one would even take at least 3 years assuming budgets will be always available. The long and uncertainty in the Right of Way acquisition and period of constructing of another 69kv line can be easily overtaken by the passing of another massive typhoon that could damage the aging and already fast deteriorating existing 69kv line. That could prove to be a horror scenario for the people of Puerto Galera.

The national government made available 338 million peso budget, and the contract has been signed last February 2017. This raises the question why proponent MGC was not able to secure the needed documents and requirements of the Municipality of Puerto Galera. Many say, it feels like an arm twisting, knowing that everyone needs electricity. They might have thought to wait, so the urgency of the situation will at the last minute persuade the municipal officials to issue the permits without ECC.

They guessed wrong. The new administration is all about following the rules and regulations and not to bend them. “It took us months to assure Puerto Galera will not be de-listed as a Man and Biosphere Reserve at UNESCO, which would have been a disaster for our town and the tourist industry, we will not risk that by breaking international standards. Everyone in Puerto has to comply, so we all will be able to show the beauty of Puerto Galera to our children and grandchildren, and our number one income source, tourism, can prosper and become sustainable for all of us” says Mayor Ilagan.

The people won! Uniting behind the Sangguniang Bayan and their Mayor proved to be effective. MGC applied for the required ECC and the Mayor promptly issued the permit.

While interviewing Engineer Maximo De Los Reyes, acting Manager of NPC for Mindoro and Romblon, we called the person in-charge of MGC, Atty. Delos Reyes who gave the order to send the needed Modular Generating Units to Puerto Galera.  .

The rehabilitation project is expected to be completed by February 17, 2018, if no typhoon or other disasters strike the area that is. Until then, our town has been assured reliable and sufficient electricity coming from the MGC generators.

United we are stronger.

Associate Editor Mario Lutz in an Interview with NPC acting Manager – Engineer Maximo DeLos Reyes