CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Impending higher electric bills, alleged mismanagement, and unpaid loans and losses in hundreds of millions of pesos are among the issues the electric cooperative in Camiguin will be explaining to the members of the Lower House as residents in this island-province are bracing for what could become a looming power crisis in one of the country’s prime tourist destinations.
Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said he has already recommended to the House energy committee to investigate the issues surrounding the Camiguin Electric Cooperative Inc. (Camelco) including the alleged “over contracting” and the projected exorbitant electricity rates resulting from these deals, and its unpaid financial obligations.
Romualdo, the House energy committee vice chairman, said the committee is expected to convene as soon as Congress resumes its regular session.
The young lawmaker has accused Camelco of entering into contracts with a number of independent power producers that will provide Camiguin with electricity more than its required need.
In effect, the 19,710 Camelco member-consumers will be the ones to bear the burden of paying for more because of this oversupply of power, Romualdo said.
He said the current residential rate in Camiguin is at P16 per kilowatt hour (kWh), the most expensive in the country today.
Camelco, Romualdo said, “will now start drawing power from another of its suppliers and, when we get our electricity bill in August, calculations will show that we will be billed no less than P20.00 per kWh.”
According to Romualdo, Camelco’s maximum peak demand is only four megawatts (MW) per day, but the electric cooperative entered into power supply contracts with FDC Misamis Power Corporation for four megawatts, King Energy Generation Inc. for four megawatts, and GN Power Kauswagan for 2.73 megawatts, for a total contracted capacity of 10.73 megawatts.
Camelco also draws two megawatts from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm).
“It is very clear that CAMELCO contracted too much power and, as we all know, consumers pay for all the power that is contracted even if we do not use it,” he said.
For his part, Camelco general manager Adriano Ebcas said the contract it signed with FDC Misamis Power and other power producers went through a process and was approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Ebcase said the reason Camelco contracted FDC Misamis Power for additional power was in preparation for business establishments that will expand their operations in Camiguin.
At present, a mall and a hotel are under construction in the island and are expected to open in a few months.
“We have to prepare for it. We have to do it now since it would take three to five years for the ERC to approve a contract. We don’t want to be criticized for not being prepared,” Ebcas said in a separate interview.
Romualdo said Ebcas and other Camelco officials have long been under fire due to allegations of “mismanagement and incompetence” prompting the power utility’s member-consumers and concerned residents to file a signed petition with NEA essentially demanding to have them investigated for “overcontracting and the substantial annual losses, negative cash flows, and loans in the hundreds of millions, with some matured loans left unpaid, detailed in the reports of the cooperative’s independent auditor.”
In its September 2017 petition to NEA, the consumers alleged that Camelco has unpaid matured loans of P13.72 million and loans amounting to P279.3 million which are due to mature in the next few years, including other outstanding obligations and incurred losses also in the millions of pesos.
Citing a report from Camelco’s independent auditor, the petitioners said the utility’s assets totaled P102.8 million, but its liabilities have reached P234.5 million.
The cooperative, they said, would need P131.7 million to settle all its financial obligations.
Camelco, they said, “is in a very poor financial condition. It is insolvent. It is not financially liquid. It does not have enough working capital and cannot meet its current financial obligations. It cannot and has not paid its matured loans. It has been incurring heavy losses, which has wiped out the equity of the RFSC [Reinvestment Fund for Sustainable Capex] collections from its member-consumers. Indeed, the CAMELCO is on the verge of financial ruin.”
Former Camiguin governor and current Mambajao mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said the petition is not enough as the island’s residents must also take legal action against the Camelco management and officers.
“Do not be afraid. You have the right to stand up and file charges against these people. We are all in this together, so we must do something before it’s too late,” the mayor told the petitioners during a gathering after a public hearing attended by Camelco officials, NEA representatives, and Camiguin local government officials held in Mambajao last week.
He said the province’s booming tourism industry will be gravely affected if the problems besetting Camelco will not be addressed right away. (davaotoday.com)