Metro Manila, Philippines — Coupled with the continuous rise in commodity prices, Filipino consumers might have to brace for potential electricity rate increases by early next year as the Malampaya gas production facility will undergo a 15-day maintenance shutdown in February.

In a briefing on Friday, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the Malampaya facility has a scheduled downtime for maintenance works on Feb. 4 to 18, 2023.

The Malampaya field, which supplies 40% of Luzon’s power needs, is located off the coast of Palawan and is near the West Philippine Sea, an area believed to be rich in oil deposits.

“During this period, the supply temporarily stops and power plants needs to switch to alternative sources of fuel,” Lotilla said.

While shifting to alternative fuels may trigger higher costs, the Department of Energy is not considering delaying the maintenance shutdown, as this was initially set in October 2022.

According to Energy Usec. Rowena Guevarra, maintenance works did not pushed through during that time due to COVID travel restrictions.

“That’s non movable. I wanted to add that in talking with officials of the previous administration, they are concerned as well with the Malampaya maintenance,” Guevarra said.

Asked how much the increase in rates may cost, Lotilla said it was “difficult” to provide figures.

“We pray and hope that the international prices of liquid oil fuels will go down further in the next year or during the February and summer months so that it can tide over the country or Luzon grid in particular over these summer months,” he said.

The energy chief said the department is now in talks with stakeholders to ensure a steady supply in the Luzon grid.

Guevarra added the country has “enough margin” even when Malampaya is not operational.

Meanwhile, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is already preparing to boost its power supply to address higher demand during the 2023 summer season.

In a statement, the company said it has started the competitive selection process (CSP) for 480 megawatts (MW) of supply.

The DOE has approved the terms of reference (TOR) for the two CSPs: Meralco’s 300-MW peaking requirement from February 26, 2023 to July 25, 2023; and 180-MW baseload supply from February 26, 2023 to February 25, 2024.

“The timely approval of the TOR would help the power distributor ensure the availability of reliable, stable, and least cost-supply for its 7.6 million customers, especially in the 2023 summer months,” it said.