For as long as she can remember, electricity has been a luxury to 39-year-old Candace Evangelista. Living in the Philippine capital of Manila, the small-business owner remembers the days when her parents would struggle to prepare food and get household chores done with a sporadic power supply. More than 20 years later, she faces the same tribulations. “Now that I am a mom myself — that’s when you really feel it, how inconvenient it can really be.” Preparing meals for her family is a tough job without electricity. Cleaning up afterward is another ordeal. Her business, a tutorial center for schoolchildren, suffers as well. In the summertime, it becomes a sauna when the power fails, so enrollment plummets. The center has a diesel-powered generator for use during scheduled outages or brownouts, but it’s becoming expensive to run.
Like most Filipinos, Evangelista never dreamed that the rolling power outages that crippled the Philippines in the early 1990s under then President Cory Aquino would still bedevil the country. But they have, raising concerns about the sustainability of one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. In May, at the start of a sweltering summer, Luzon — the Philippines’ largest island and the hub of the nation’s commercial and industrial activity — suddenly blacked out. Six power plants failed. Last month, Albay province’s 1.2 million people lost power for 39 hours because the local electricity provider, Albay Electric Cooperative, failed to settle its bill with the national power-grid operator. The $93 million sum had been outstanding for 15 years. On Friday, a brownout was announced throughout Misamis Occidental province (as has been done over 200 times since January). The next one: Pampanga, one of the richest provinces, which will lose power on Wednesday for eight hours. Consumers suffer and so do businesses that have to pay workers when machinery and premises are sitting idle.
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– Anjani Trivedi
Featured by TIME, 6 August 2013
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