PHILIPPINES

Blackout hits Philippine province of Albay over unpaid electricity debt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 2:16am
AFP

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About a million people in the central Philippines endured an extraordinary blackout yesterday after a power provider cut electricity to an entire province over unpaid debts dating back 15 years.

Hospitals and an airport in Albay province were forced to run on emergency generators after power was severed without notice on Tuesday afternoon, while shops closed and residents struggled amid steamy, tropical weather.

"We could not sleep last night, it was very hot. I opened the windows and screen door to get some wind inside, but that allowed the big mosquitoes in," Jun Marana, a coach driver in the provincial capital, Legazpi, said.

Marana said all the food in his refrigerator had spoiled, while it was difficult to buy more for his four children because many shops had closed.

The operator of the country's electricity spot market cut off the power to Albay's electricity retailer because of about four billion pesos (HK$714.5 million) in bills that had accumulated over 15 years, an energy ministry spokeswoman said.

We could not sleep last night, it was very hot. I opened the windows and screen door to get some wind inside, but that allowed the big mosquitoes in
Jun Marana

Albay, one of the country's poorer provinces in the far east of the main island of Luzon, has 1.1 million residents.

Supplies resumed late yesterday after talks between the national provider and the provincial supplier that owes the money, Albay Electric Co-Operative.

The national provider, Philippine Electricity Market Corp, said Albay Electric had seven more days to start repaying the debt or power would be cut again.

Albay's governor, Joey Salceda, said the Energy Department laid down two conditions for restoring electricity: keeping the top 100 non-paying customers - most of them businesses - off the grid and setting up a rehabilitation plan to pay off the debt.

Additional reporting by Associated Press