ERC’s help sought to stop Lapu power rate hike, as DPWH, NGCP trade blame

MACTAN Electric Company (Meco) consumers may not experience an increase in generation rates if the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) steps in to prevent this, following the incident that damaged the cable of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

Engineer Gilbert Pagobo, Meco’s senior vice president and general manager, said he had sent a letter to the ERC last week requesting the commission’s intervention to direct the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market to suspend the effect increase in the line rental due to line congestion and other applicable charges attributable to the outage of Line 2 of the Cebu-Mandaue Transmission Line.

“We are worried about the impact of line congestion that would increase the line rental and that will add a burden to our consumers,” said Pagobo in his letter.

He noted that in order to avoid power interruption due to the limited capacity of Line 1, NGCP dispatched East Asia Utilities Corp. (EAUC), the only diesel power plant on Mactan island, ultimately setting the marginal cost and the nodal price of Mactan island.

“Our biggest fear would be the significant increases in electricity billings as an unreasonable burden to be passed on to our consumers,” he added.

Should the ERC not suspend the increases, Pagobo said the impact will be felt by the consumers, including in Cordova town, by the billing on March 25.

Meco started using power from EAUC from Jan. 25 to Feb. 25, 2023, which will be reflected in the March 25 billing.

Pagobo bared these during the executive meeting called by Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan on Monday, Feb. 13, along with Lone District Rep. Ma. Cynthia Chan, and stakeholders of the incident such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), NGCP and power distributor Meco.

To support Meco’s request, the mayor, the City Council and the congresswoman are eyeing to send separate letters with the same requests to the ERC.

“Maybe not just for ERC, we will write to the President directly, to the Secretary of Energy, so that immediate action on the gravity of this problem will be addressed,” said the congresswoman.

Last Jan. 21, DWPH contractor equipment (a backhoe) hit the underground cable while excavating the road, causing damage to one of NGCP’s cable lines in the area.

Pagobo emphasized that the remaining cable line is the only one supplying the loads of both the Mactan and Mandaue Substations and is now under a constraint and possibility of overloading.


NGCP officer-in-charge Roel Tobias said they can’t specify when they will start repairs on the line since they are still waiting for their foreign consultant to make the assessment.

But he said the repairs will take 65 to 70 days to complete as they assured their best efforts.

Pagobo earlier said Meco’s power generation charge may rise to P20 from P8.50 per kilowatt hour (kWh) depending on the generation charge of its source of electricity.

But he clarified that Meco’s distribution charge remains the same.

How it happened

Engineer Eda Guzman, DPWH Sixth District Engineering Office maintenance section head, said the administration was facilitating improvements of existing cross-drainage previously constructed by the regional office in 2022 at the portion of the section crossing UN Avenue using a backhoe excavator on Jan. 20.

Guzman said the activity aimed to bring runoff water toward the existing drainage at the right side going to Marcelo Fernan Bridge with a proposed length of 7.50 meters, width of 0.80 meters and depth of 1.20 meters, approximately 370 meters from the junction of Plaridel Street.

Amid the excavation, Guzman narrated that the backhoe operator hit the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) pipeline about .60 meters measured from the natural grade line and 10.40 meters measured from the centerline of the original road feature before the depressed structure project was implemented.

Guzman said they immediately stopped going further in their excavation work as the water burst from the affected section of the pipe.

She further stressed that they called on the MCWD around 9:30 p.m. to repair the damaged pipe, and that MCWD personnel arrived in the area an hour after and took palliative measures to address the water leak.

Trading accusations

The day after, Guzman said, she was asked by NGCP through a phone call if there was a project implemented on UN Avenue and was informed that an NGCP line had been hit that might cause a power outage on Mactan Island.

“Our initial assessment and observation is that there were no Warning Tape and Concrete Protection Slab as protective covering for this utility that would have forewarned us of any existing underground utilities,” said Guzman.

But Tobias denied the claims of DPWH, saying that they had all of these and acquired the needed requirements or permits.

DPWH Sixth District Engineer Daisy Toledo said they had no idea about the NGCP’s cable line in the area and whether the latter had asked for a permit to install such.

In response, Tobias questioned the DPWH as to why they had no knowledge about it since the cable line was installed in 2005 and it was the same line that was hit by the contractor of the DPWH regional office in 2019.

Last month’s incident was already the third time that NGCP’s cable lines were involved in an accident caused by the ongoing road projects of the DPWH.

The first incident happened in one of its cable lines near the corner of DM Cortes St. and AC Cortes Ave. in 2015, followed by another at the intersection of UN Avenue and DM Cortes St. in 2019. It took NGCP six months to repair the line in the 2019 incident.

Tobias also emphasized that they had a series of meetings with the DPWH after the 2015 incident and even submitted the as-built plan of their cable lines in the area.

DPWH 7 Director Ernesto Gregorio Jr. suggested a joint inspection on the area with Meco, NGCP and the Lapu-Lapu City Government to establish the real situation on the ground.

Chan earlier expressed dismay after the DPWH sent only a maintenance engineer to attend the executive session that the mayor had called last Feb. 8 to discuss the rotating brownouts that Meco had started imposing on its customers following the cable line accident.

The mayor said he would not agree to have the consumers pay for the increase in electric bills, particularly the generation cost, as they should not pay for the DPWH’s sins.