House resolution seeks Occidental Mindoro’s ‘regime of blackouts’ probed

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Representatives from a women’s party-list has urged the House of Representatives to investigate the “regime of blackouts” in Occidental Mindoro.

In a resolution, Representatives Luzviminda “Luz” Ilagan and Emerenciana “Emmi” De Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s Party-list filed House Resolution No. 2251 seeking that the House Committee on Energy “conduct an immediate inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the electric power situation in Occidental Mindoro in order to draw up appropriate policy recommendations for a prompt solution to the regime of blackouts that is gravely affecting the people, business and industries in the province.”

This as they criticized Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, as a “bad policy,” citing how the lone private power supplier in Occidental Mindoro, Island Power Corporation, has used a contract of “exclusivity” despite completely shutting down since 2007.

The resolution states that since 2008, the national government has “refused and continues to refuse” coming to Occidental Mindoro’s aid because EPIRA “prohibits the government from performing any act that goes against the current of privitization, including fulfilling the thrust of the government’s very own program of rural electrification.”

EPIRA has “placed government in the corner saying, we sympathize with [Occidental Mindoro] but we cannot do anything about your problem,” they said.

The resolution was a response to the social media campaign and online petition dubbed “Wanted Ilaw” which garnered more than 5,000 signatures from Occidental Mindoro residents and sympathizers, a copy of which was submitted to the Gabriela Party-List office.

The petition was launched by the group 100% Brownout-Free Occidental Mindoro (BFOM) in March this year calling for an investigation of the daily 6-12 hour blackouts experienced by residents of the province. The brownouts peaked in April and May this year, which led to the staging of several public protests in the towns of Sablayan, San Jose, and Rizal, where citizens wore black and affixed protest streamers on tricycles.

The convenors of  100% BFOM, three women hailing from San Jose, are lawyer Patty Miranda, nurse Annette Aguila, and accountant Diane Apigo-Tayag.

In a statement, the convenors said, “Thousands supported the #wantedilaw province-wide petition because the residents of Occidental Mindoro can no longer endure the decades-long daily blackouts. Sobra na. If the government fails to come to grips with the issue of universal access to modern energy services, half a million Filipinos are condemned to live in energy poverty. If our power crisis is not resolved, our province is destined to remain the 18th poorest in the country. This has got to change.”

Two months ago, the House Committee on Energy commenced addressing several bills seeking to amend several provisions of the 13-year old EPIRA.

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