HomeCommentaryGovernors, energy officials to electric cooperatives: Shape up or ship out

Governors, energy officials to electric cooperatives: Shape up or ship out

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) is indicting more electric cooperative mis-managers. The top brass of two electric cooperatives (EC) will face raps for P130-million embezzlement that caused blackouts and costly rates.

Governors are scrutinizing provincial ECs for raising charges despite frequent outages. They want NEA to free consumers from ECs’ monopolistic areas of operation.

NEA administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda wouldn’t identify the two ECs he has just investigated. On his referral, the Dept. of Justice is to file charges against the first for P70 million and the second for P60 million malversation.

“This should send ECs the message: Reform,” Almeda told Gotcha yesterday. In February he instigated the sacking of Benguet Electric Cooperative directors and officers and indictment for estafa (fraud).

Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib complained to senators about abusive EC policies. Foremost is the steep 18.22-percent annual interest starting after just two days’ delay in payment.

Davao Consumer Movement showed three sample bills of Northern Davao Electric Cooperative, Inc.:

• Current bill, P3,385.55; Meter reading, July 31, 2023; Due date, Aug. 9, 2023. “Disconnection shall be executed in 48 hours after the due date without prior notice … We will impose a daily interest of 1.69 if no payment is made after the due date.” Computed per annum, the interest is 18.22 percent.

- Newsletter -

• Due date, Aug. 9, 2023. “Disconnection in 48 hours after due date without prior notice … daily interest of 8.38.”

• Due date, July 29, 2023. “Disconnection in 48 hours after due date without prior notice … daily interest of 2.50.”

Jubahib said customers in the province’s 1st District suffer one- to four-hour unscheduled blackouts daily. The Island Garden City of Samal, 2nd District, suffers five-hour outages daily.

Businessmen are threatening to leave, Jubahib said. Those in Samal held a protest strike Mar. 3; in the mainland, Mar. 13; he joined a province-wide strike Apr. 4. They want President Bongbong Marcos to ease their woes as he did for Mindoro Occidental in April.

“If businesses close, we’ll have not just power crisis but economic crisis,” Jubahib said. “Paano na ang mga tao? Saan na magtatrabaho kung mag-alisan ang negosyante?”

Daylong blackouts struck during visits of Senators Imee Marcos on May 21 and Bong Go on June 13. Jubahib told the Senate committee on energy July 12, that the outages go on despite Nordeco’s promised solution by June 30.

Two Nordeco managers reasoned that the June 13 blackout was due to unscheduled maintenance by National Grid Corp. of the Philippines. Irked, committee chair Raffy Tulfo said the senators were looking into months-long power failure, not just that day.

Consumers reiterated their preference for Davao Light and Power Co.’s better service and lower charges. They submitted a comparative table of residential and commercial rates by DLPC, Nordeco, Davao del Sur Electric Cooperative, and Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative:

August 2023 – Residential – Commercial

• Nordeco – 9.8214 – 8.8591

• Dasureco – 12.2524 – 11.7508

• Doreco – 12.4840 – 11.4849

• DLPC – 5.6817 – 5.8577

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone decried expensive electricity on his island. Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative charges P17 per kilowatt-hour on average, among the country’s highest.

“Our electricity source is a coal-fired power plant in Bataan,” he said. “The irony, or rather the tragedy, is that we host hydro and geothermal power plants that produce cheap energy. Adding insult to injury, they sell to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market at higher rates.”

Who’s in charge, Evardone wondered: “I’ve long advocated that host communities of renewable energy be given preferential treatment. Nobody’s listening.”

Former Mindoro Oriental governor Rodolfo Valencia complained of a similar expensive source: “We’ve been struggling against frequent province-wide outages for months now. Our rates are among the country’s highest.”

Reacting to Gotcha, Aug. 25, “Are you suffering blackouts, expensive electricity too?”, he e-mailed: “We’re at the mercy of corrupt politicians in cahoots with inexperienced, incompetent independent power producers who use diesel generators of limited capacities.”

Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative disregarded its own bidding for the “least cost” power supplier, Valencia alleged. “Highly respected, well-credentialled DMCI Power took part in a supply bidding, complied with and submitted all requirements, and won – even announced by Ormeco,” he said.

“But results were not implemented. DMCI was shut out. Contracts were given to small, inexperienced IPPs controlled by politicians or their influenced small contractors. Since 2013 they preferred emergency-purchase sales agreements [from suppliers]. No bidding.”

On NEA’s 54th anniversary Aug. 9 Energy Sec. Raphael Lotilla called out the inefficiency among 119 ECs, 33 distribution utilities, and dozens of generators. They should improve, and those who are doing well should inspire the rest. Consumers demand so, he said.

Ten Laguna municipalities recently asked Congress to not extend the franchise of First Laguna Electric Cooperative. Signing the petition against poor services were the mayors of Cavinti, Famy, Kalayaan, Mabitac, Paete, Pagsanjan, Pakil, Pangil, Siniloan, and Sta. Maria.

Fleco’s charges have been increasing in its captive market, which they alleged to be in breach of the “least cost” rule of the 2002 Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Pakil mayor Vincent Soriano said they want Manila Electric Co., Luzon’s largest distributor, to take over. NEA’s Almeda wants Meralco to first show capability.

In Pampanga, six mayors wondered whether Meralco, which services adjacent locales, can replace Pampanga Electric Cooperative-3.

Nasugbu, Batangas Mayor Tony Barcelon presented the plea of 22,000 constituents to “transition to Meralco” from Batangas Electric Cooperative-1.

A seaside resort owner in Lobo town lamented frequent outages by Batangas Electric Cooperative-2. From Jan. 2022 to July 2023 she paid Batalec-2 P1,073,933.77. However due to outages, she spent another P323,500 on diesel fuel.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LICAS News.

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