By NITZ ARANCON
THE National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) yesterday said the blackout that crippled many areas in Mindanao yesterday was a result of an “intentional toppling of vegetation” that affected a major power transmission line from one of the hydroelectric power plants in Lanao del Sur.
The blackout lasted for over five hours in some areas. According to NGCP, the power outage affected vast areas from northeastern to northwestern Mindanao.
Mae Roselle Curiano, NGCP North-Central Midanao corporate affairs and public relations officer, said initial investigation show an “intentional toppling of vegetation” under the NGCP transmission line between Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, and the Agus 2 hydroelectric plant in Lanao del Sur.
The same transmission line has a history of being damaged by saboteurs, at times by way of bombing NGCP towers. Previous cases of sabotage have been blamed on landowners demanding payment from NGCP.
The Agus 2-Baloi 138-kv line is one of eight crucial lines that has been giving NGCP headaches for years because of uncooperative landowners with unreasonable monetary demands.
The NGCP has long been complaining about how it was being prevented by claimants from conducting line maintenance activities in areas where the power transmission lines traverse.
On May 3, 2016, for instance, Tower 25 of Agus 2-Baloi was bombed. It was the same tower that was bombed on Dec. 23, 2015. It took NGCP at least three months to restore the tower after the first bombing since the landowner prevented NGCP from conduct repairs.
The tower is vital to the distribution of electricity in Mindanao since it links Agus 1 and 2 hydroelectric plants to the NGCP transmission system.
In July 20 of that same year, a tree branch tied with rope was intentionally thrown at NGCP’s Baloi-Agus 2 line in Adapun Ali, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. The incident caused the line to trip and isolated the Agus 1 and 2 hydroelectric plants from the power grid. Clearing operations were delayed because another landowner initially refused NGCP entry to the transmission line corridor.
A week before that, another line was sabotaged by a group that erected a bamboo pole within NGCP’s right-of-way corridor, causing the transmission line to trip. Attempts to re-energize the line failed after claimant refused NGCP access to the transmission lines for restoration work.
Curiano did not elaborate when she was asked exactly what the NGCP meant by “intentional toppling of vegetation” under the NGCP transmission line in yesterday’s case. Neither did she say that it was another case of sabotage.
But the NGCP stated in its advisory that the “intentional toppling of vegetation” resulted in the loss of power over vast areas in Mindanao, and that “NGCP urges all stakeholders and host communities to safeguard its lines and respect right-of-way clearances.”
NGCP also appealed to concerned citizens to report any suspicious activity to the NGCP
NGCP said it completed the restoration of all transmission services at 1:56 pm, except for the Agus 2- Baloi line, “which is still being cleared of the intentionally toppled vegetation.”
In some areas, the power supply was restored late in the afternoon or over five hours after the widespread blackout hit Mindanao areas.
The power outage started at around 10:38 am which NGCP earlier said was a result of a “grid disturbance.” (with reports from Herbie Gomez and Cong Corrales)