Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Monday, November 25, 2013
Bohol is beset by a power crisis. The available power supply coming from the Bohol Diesel Power Plant (BDPP) and the mini-hydro power plants of BOHECO 1 is more or less 15-megawatts, given no unit of BDPP suffers from mechanical trouble, while the entire province’s requirement is 55-megawatts. Out of the combined power capacity of 15-megawatts, BOHECO 1 is allocated 5-megawatts; BOHECO 2, 3-megawatts; Tagbilaran City, 5-megawatts; and a spinning reserve of 2-megawatts.
How to divide the very scarce resources is beyond me. While there are some areas with very limited but available power supply at night like portions of Loay, Lila, and Dimiao; other areas are pitch black. I drove Saturday and Sunday nights from Tagbilaran to Lila. I saw sparse electricity lighting portions of the highway. Then on Monday night, we drove from Dimiao to Lila. Electricity lit a stretch of the highway.
This scarcity of power supply is brought about by the devastation unleashed by typhoon Yolanda in neighbouring Leyte. Major power lines were felled by the typhoon including one that carries the bulk of power supply from Leyte to Bohol. With the restoration work still on-going, Boholanos are left with only ingenuity.
Many business owners have invested in generators. This is true not only for the city but for the entire province as well. Without reliable power supply, the business sector suffers the most. Many homeowners have bought generators, as well for the comfort they provide. For the rest of us ordinary mortals, we live each day as best we could. We use gas lamps or lampara at night. Some use candles while others use LPG-operated lamps that remind me of the Petromax lanterns of old.
The day before and after Yolanda struck my power industry colleague Elmer Cruz of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) was regularly sending Power Advisories which were very helpful to me. I also forwarded his Advisories to my contacts both in government and the private sector. In times of crisis, information is vital. Time and again, I have been saying that information is essential during crisis situations. Without information, people get confused, angry, frustrated, and then would start speculating. Speculation is the enemy of information. Communicators are trained to confront the vacuum and disseminate rightful information as fast as any available means could.
Pronouncements have been made that power supply to Eastern and Central Visayas will be made available before Christmas. We welcome the news as we grope in the dark at night. We trust that our line personnel from all over the Philippines who now converge in Leyte to undertake major restoration works will be able to meet the target set. Having worked with the linemen of NPC, TRANSCO, and NGCP for nineteen years, I have no doubt that the Secretary’s promise will be delivered. These line personnel will move heaven and earth to restore damaged structures to enable substation engineers to re-energize the affected lines.
Our present situation makes us appreciate the presence of a base-load power plant in Bohol. We need one that can supply us sufficient power in the event we are disconnected from the Visayas Grid, just like after Yolanda. This base-load power plant should have a capacity larger than 55-megawatts. It should factor in the annual growth of the power requirement in the entire Bohol Island. With the hard and painful reality confronting us now, the leadership of Bohol is best encouraged to consider seriously the construction of a base-load plant. A base-load plant runs 24 hours and is connected to the grid. In the event that we are disconnected from the grid, the base-load plant will operate independently to supply Bohol with the needed power requirement.
In the meantime, I urge my fellow Boholanos not to curse the darkness. It is best we accept our present reality, deal with it, and do something positive about it.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I was born and raised in Tagbilaran City, the capital city of Bohol. I remember being terrified when Typhoon Nitang snapped two coconut trees right in our own courtyard. The torrential rains didn’t stop. It flooded the whole yard. Thank God our house was a bit elevated the waters didn’t get inside. I remember Mother promising to cut all the remaining standing coconut trees as soon as the storm subsided. True to her word, the following day, all the remaining coconuts were felled. I didn’t feel sorry for them. I felt relieved. Nitang happened when I was in college.
A couple of years after, I relocated to Cebu City for my first job - my first power industry job. In Cebu, I remember being scared again when ferocious typhoon Ruping with its howling wind attacked Cebu. Power supply was cut off for several days in the city.
Then, I relocated to General Santos City. Boy was I petrified when the city was besieged by bomb attacks in May 2000. I was very scared I told my former boss I had better gone home to Bohol. Naturally he prevailed over my frightened reaction. He said something about succumbing to terrorists’ tactics if city residents left. The terrorists would have won then, hands down.
Fast forward to October 15, 2013. Nothing could have prepared me for the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol. As the house shook fiercely together with a thunderous roar and objects started falling, I thought the house was going to crumble and worse, would collapse on me. Imagine that scene. I would be pinned down dead. Only presence of mind kicked me out from under the table of my bedroom and raced towards the door directly to the street. People were already on the streets shaking and trembling in their sleep wear. It was a holiday after all and people took their sweet time sleeping. It was supposed to be a day of relaxation. People can get up late because there was no work and no school for students. But that day was meant for something else. Sinister, for some; life-changing for others.
A lot of people were terrorized by the experience. The aftershocks didn’t help diminish the fear. Even up to this writing, aftershocks are still felt. It’s normal to feel afraid. I think for the most parts, we are afraid to die. A wise man said we should embrace death for it is a natural part of life. But when disasters occur, we forget whatever any wise man says and run for our lives. Don’t we? It’s our survival instinct that prevails. We run for cover. So maybe we’re not afraid to die after all, but afraid to die a painful death. Imagine being pinned down by a collapsing house. You feel every bone of your body breaks and you cry for help. It’s pure agony and it’s heartbreaking to even write about it.
There are so many painful stories from this side of the archipelago but all these have been heard, seen, and viewed from everywhere, thanks to advanced technology.
Suddenly, you’re thrust out of your comfort zone. Within seconds, you feel insecure about your life. It does not matter what type of house we live in. An earthquake can flatten it in seconds. That’s right. A very powerful 20-30 second mainshock alters everything. If it were longer, the devastation could have been greater. The loss of lives could have doubled.
While at it, I asked Engr. Nolan Evangelista, an expert from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and who happens to be a city neighbor about the recent earthquake. Nolan said, “The mainshock was characterized by slow ground shaking for about 10 seconds. This was followed by a strong vertical motion from 10 to 20 seconds.” I am not an expert but we can surmise logically that the vertical motion caused the collapse of the centuries-old churches.
The churches are another story. Being a provincial lass, I have seen all these churches up close and personal. I have been inside these churches. I have even taken photographs of these grand structures. They are huge, mystical, and transcend time. Imagine centuries. So many callused and dainty feet have walked either the wooden or tiled aisle. So many veiled and unveiled heads have looked up to admire the arches and columns. So many weddings and funerals held. Truly, the churches are a class of their own. A writer said, “We will also mourn their destruction because they have been part of our history and culture”. She said, “They will leave a scar as well.”
Boholanos will have to accommodate the changes brought about by the recent earthquake. There will be many changes. For the badly-hit municipalities, life will never be the same again. It will be a fresh start, a new beginning.
For all of us who are affected in various ways by the disaster, our perspectives have totally changed. There is a new appreciation for life, family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. There is a deeper relationship with the Creator; a stronger faith. We discover our own depths of generosity, compassion, and empathy. We have bonded as a people. More importantly, we have become truly attuned to our own humanity.
|The seal of history|