MANILA, Philippines — Electricity was restored Wednesday to most of a Philippine province that was entirely cut off for more than 24 hours when the national power grid operator stopped its supply due to $93 million in unpaid bills, officials said.
Shops had been closed and hospitals had been running on generators since Tuesday morning in Albay, a province of 1.2 million people southeast of Manila. Even the provincial governor's office was not spared from the power outage.
The Department of Energy said a disconnection notice was served to the Albay Electric Cooperative because it failed to settle a debt of nearly 4 billion pesos ($93 million) over 15 years.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said power was restored as of 5 p.m. Wednesday on the conditions that the top 100 delinquent customers – most of them business establishments – remain disconnected and that the electric cooperative pay its current outstanding bill of 59 million pesos ($1.3 million).
He said that as of midday Wednesday, roughly 40 million pesos ($922,000) had been paid, and the mayor of Legazpi, the provincial capital, promised to settle the balance soon even if it would mean declaring a state of emergency in the city to allow the quick disbursement of funds.
"It's really dark at night. Since it is also rainy here, it is like during a typhoon," health insurance company employee Cristie Recebido said earlier Wednesday.
She said shops in Legazpi closed early and hospitals and offices were running on generators.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said he was worried about the economic impact. Albay is an agricultural province and the country's third largest source of geothermal power. The active Mayon volcano overlooking Legazpi is one of the region's top tourist attractions.
Salceda said that the Energy Department laid down two conditions for restoring electricity, including keeping the top 100 non-paying customers off the grid and putting in place a rehabilitation plan to pay off the debt.