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PIA Press Release

10,000 workers may lose jobs due to worsening Mindanao power crisis

Butuan City (17 March) -- About 10,000 workers might lose their jobs as major industries, particularly in farming, food, fishing, mining and wood, plan to temporarily trim-down their work force due to severe power problem and dry spell in Mindanao.

The Misamis Oriental legislative body has even passed a resolution urging the agriculture department to integrate in its list of priorities the implementation of a program that would grant alternative livelihood for farmers adversely affected by the dry spell caused by El Nino weather disturbance.

The resolution, authored by Misamis Oriental Vice Gov. Norris Babiera, seeks a program similar to the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment program(CLEEP)of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

The long dry spell in Mindanao is not just affecting the island?s power generation but its fruit tree production as well.

The Mindanao Fruit Council (MFC) has warned that a prolonged dry spell would kill many fruit trees in affected areas, leading to lay off of fruit tree growers and loss of income of farmers.

MFC executive Larry Miculob said many trees were now "stressed" because of lack of water and if fruit farmers, both small and big producers, do not have sufficient irrigation system, a lot of fruit trees may die after April 15.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Sunday warned of "severe" job losses in Mindanao, which is now under a state of calamity due to crippling power shortage.

TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said the DoLE should step in and find ways to mitigate the upcoming problem of the workers due to severe brownouts currently plaguing the southern island.

"Major industries might carry out strategies that include fewer work shifts and the rotation of workers," said the former senator.

Other power-intensive industries being hit hard by the brownouts are steel and cement manufacturing, canning, commercial fishing, food processing, retail trade and telecommunications.

The power crisis in Mindanao has been aggravated by the prolonged dry spell due to the El Niņo weather disturbance, which has reduced the region?s hydropower efficency since late January.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of calamity in the entire Mindanao to enable provincial, city, and municipal governments to acquire extra generators without going through the usual procurement process and other mitigating measures.

Mrs. Arroyo placed the national government?s calamity fund at P10 billion, of which P55 billion were allocated for the power sector and P4.5 billion for agriculture.

Meanwhile, the National grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said on its Monday?s advisory that the Mindanao grid would continue to experience generation deficiency of 632 megawatts (MW).

The NGCP said a lower deficiency could be attributed to a decrease in peak demand. The limited power supply in the island is still caused by the inadequate available capacities from the grid's main power sources - National Power Corp.'s (Napocor) hydro power plants. Almost all of the company's power plants have water reservoirs that are drying up due to the El Niņo phenomenon.

The government is meeting the 33-member cooperatives of the Mindanao Electric Power Alliance (MEPA) to solve the worsening power crisis in the southern island.

The recommendations from MEPA will be submitted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today.

Mindanao grid had been suffering from a minimum of five hours to a maximum of eight hours rotating brownouts since last month.

NGCP will continue to monitor power grid conditions, the advisory said.

As this developed, the Mindanao?s 33 electric cooperatives have started negotiations with power producer Aboitiz Power Corp. (Aboitiz Power) for the possibility of aligning some 150 MW of additional power supplies to the critical Mindanao power grid.

The groups is also exploring the possibility of opening negotiations with Aboitiz Power for the utilization of the additional 50 MW from its diesel-fired power barge stationed in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte province. (muc/PIA-Caraga) [top]

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