A massive power failure hit Cebu and the rest of the Visayas region starting 9:45 a.m. yesterday causing traffic jams, sweltering heat, and water service interruptions.
The blackout, the first this year, affected the entire Cebu-Negros-Panay grid for five hours, catching households and business establishments by surprise.
With no prior announcement, ordinary citizens found their Saturday schedules upset.
Power was slowly restored starting 1 p.m. until all areas were lighted again by 5:15 p.m.
The blackout affected the islands of Panay, Guimaras, Cebu, Negros, Bohol, Siquijor, Leyte, Samar and Biliran.
The cause of the blackout was still to be determined but initial reports cited technical trouble in a submarine transmission cable in Tabango, Leyte province connected to Cebu.
Sebastian Lacson, vice president of the Visayan Electric Company (Veco), said power lines started to shut down at 9:45 am
Lacson said Veco got electricity from the Toledo Power Conporation in barangay Sangi, Toledo City while engineers were checking out damage in the Leyte-Cebu High-Voltage Transmission Line owned by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (formerly known as the National Transmission Corporation).
By 1 p.m. yesterday, areas from barangay Pardo, Cebu City down to Talisay City were energized.
The Leyte-Cebu submarine transmission line was restored at 3 p.m.
Electric power was restored by 100% to the entire Cebu at 5 : 15 p.m., said Lacson.
During the blackout, traffic congestion built up in Cebu City where computerized traffic signals went dead.
Since it was a weekend, there were fewer traffic enforcers on the street.
Of 78 intersections with traffic signals, only about 40 had traffic personnel to fill the gap, said Arnel Tancinco, executive officer of the City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM).
They deployed over 100 Citom enforcers to deal with yesterday's sudden traffic jams.
?We only have a few personnel on duty during weekends. If lights go dead every weekend, we can't sustain the number of traffic enforcers,? he told Cebu Daily News.
Heavy traffic was noted along Gorordo Street, General Maxilom Street, and streets of barangay Mabolo, the Citom said. A total of 15 vehicular accidents were recorded during the blackout.
?We were just lucky today is a weekend,? said Cebu City Councilor Sylvan Jakosalem.
?If this happened on a weekday, business losses would have been huge.?
He said off-duty Citom personnel should have helped with the emergency. The episode ?only reinforces the importance of having enough power generated? in Cebu.
People flocked to the malls hoping for relief in the air-conditioned stores but generator sets fed just enough power for lights and basic ventilation. Escalators were at a standstill and temperatures inside were stifling.
Households had to make do with no electricity and running water. Since Metro Cebu Water District's pumping system relies on electric power, water supply was also affected.
The unscheduled power failure posed great inconvenience to families.
Hazel Hinaot, a 25-year-old housewife in General Maxilom Avenue, said her family wasn't able to eat lunch on time because preparations were upset.
?It was almost 4 p.m. when he sat down for lunch because I wasn't able to cook. It was so dark inside the house,? she said.
Family members sat outside, trying to stay cool.
?Next time the power company should give us advance warning so our plans don't get disrupted,? she said.
Some residents deliberately kept the housesholds unlighted.
?We're afraid something will cause a fire because there's no electricity,? said Elicia Litada of General Maxilom Avenue.
?Some people are using candles in their homes because it's so dark and it's so hot because of summer. We're prone to fires.?
Big establishments like department stores, major hotels and resorts, relied on standby generator sets.
Efrain Pelaez, president of the Mactan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Cebuanos have learned how to live with blackouts.
?Dili man kaayo grabe and effect sa blackout. Unless it would happen everyday, that's when we can say it's alarming,? he said.
He said business establishments in Lapu-Lapu are well-prepared for blackouts.
?We have backups. We are prepared for blackouts,? he said.
Mildred Amon, Communications Director of Shangrila Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City, said they had normal operations even during the blackout.
?We have our generators ready and we didn't receive any complaints from out clients,? said Amon.
At the Ayala Center Cebu, where the mall has nine generators, ?we did not encounter any problem,? said Elson Homez, VisMin Ayala Properties Management Corp.
?Our generators were in good condition. We recently signed up for voluntary load curtailment so we are prepared to run our gen-sets.?
?Our gen-sets can carry the total load.?
But Robert Go, former regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce
and Industry (PCCI) in Central Visayas, said the blackout would definitely result in losses for establishments, whether or not they have their own generator sets, because of the high cost of operating a generator.
Also, some companies use generator sets for limited purposes only, thus the blackout would still hamper their operation, he said.
Power plants of Napocor, PNOC bogged down
Napocor said that initial information from the Grid Management Committee (GMC) revealed that power generation units from the Leyte Geothermal Power Plant (LGPP) and those operated by the PNOC-Energy Development Corporation (PNOC-EDC) tripped at 9:38 a.m. Saturday, following the transmission line tripping in Leyte.
The entire Visayas region lost power starting at midmorning Saturday.
All five geothermal power plants in barangay Tongonan in Kananga, Leyte, bogged down. The power supply from Tongonan is the main source of electricity for the Visayas grid.
Transco sells the Tongonan-generated electricity to power companies and cooperatives in the three Visayan regions and to Luzon.
The power plant owned by the National Power Corporation (Napocor), the Leyte geothermal power plant, and the four power plants owned by the Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development (PNOC-EDC) - Mahanagdong A, Mahanagdong B, Malitbog and Upper Mahiao ? all bogged down at the same time.with reports from editorial assistant Ma. Benadette A. Parco and inquirer