Politics blamed for some debt-laden electric coops

by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2012 05:30 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2012 01:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) wants local politicians to stop meddling in the operations of local electric cooperatives. 

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras admitted that electric cooperatives have accumulated debts of P13.7 billion to Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), National Power Corp. (Napocor) and National Electrification Administration (NEA). 

Only a handful of the 190 electric coops have debt problems but Almendras says the situation is alarming for people in these areas. 

According to Almendras, Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) has more than a billion peso in debt with the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), PSALM and other private power suppliers. He said ALECO has until December to settle its debts, otherwise, they will be cut off from the grid. Another problematic coop is Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (LASURECO) which has more than P3 billion in debts. 

The Energy Secretary said around 10 electric coops have debt problems. 

The solution, Almendras believes, is the passage of a new NEA charter. However, this is still pending in Congress.

"For as long as pinapakialaman ng pulitiko ang pagpapatakbo, there will be problem... If a politician promises na di tataas ang singil nyo sa kuryente kung iboboto nyo ako, we will have to disconnect them," he said. 

Almendras clarified that coops are able to collect from the consumers but for some reason, these are not paid to electricity suppliers.

On the issue of the distribution of compact flourescent lamps, Almendras says this just coincided with the campaign period but the electrification program has been there since 2010.

With 5 million CFL's already distributed during the time of the late Sec Angelo Reyes, the current DOE has already given out 3.6 million CFLs to congressional districts and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution. 

The congressional districts were given 2.4 million which will be given to consumers on a first come first serve basis starting Sept 22 - 28 while 1.2 million was given to the DSWD for distribution to poor families. The CFLs were bought using part of the loaned amount of $31 million from the ADB which is equivalent to P1.3 billion. 

According to Almendras, savings from government retrofitting of buildings is more than enough to cover the loan from ADB.