CAMIGUIN, Philippines – This island’s sole district representative has urged the management of its only power utility to act on the financial losses it has incurred amounting to almost half a billion pesos or the entire island-province will be plunged into darkness that will affect its thriving tourism industry.
According to the data provided by the Camiguin Electric Cooperative (Camelco), the losses amounted to P426 million accumulated over the years of its operation.
Joanne Lapeciros, Camelco finance manager, said that since she started working for the company the power utility has been incurring losses way back in 2007, due primarily to mismanagement, excessive salaries, and perks of its officials, and inability to pay loans to government agencies and obligations from its power suppliers.
Camiguin Lone District Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said the inability of power cooperative’s officials to properly manage its finances is “unacceptable as it means there is neglect in the management of Camelco.”
The situation has reached an alarming level, Romualdo said, that he initiated a congressional hearing attended by Camiguin consumers, local government officials, Camelco management, and representatives from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) held in Mambajao town on March 18.
Romualdo is the Lower House’s chairperson on Good Government and Public Accountability and vice chairperson on Energy.
Echoing the fears of the island’s residents, the lawmaker said if Camelco cannot pay its financial obligations, it will have an adverse impact on Camiguin’s progress, most especially its tourism industry.
Camiguin has been touted as one of the best tourist destinations in the country, with its beaches, falls, springs, dive spots, among others.
Based on its financial statement in 2017, Camelco’s accounts payable to its power suppliers have reached P76.5 million. Last year, the utility has a debt of P47 million to power producers.
Camelco sources its electricity through a power supply agreement (PSA) from FDC Misamis Power, which supplies the utility with four megawatts; King Energy Generation Inc., two megawatts; and GN Power, which has yet to go online, one megawatt.
Camiguin’s electricity users are currently paying P16.45 per kilowatt hour, considered as of the more expensive rates in Northern Mindanao.
Camelco’s current contracted power supply is 10.73 megawatts, but it is using only less than half of that, at 4.7 megawatts.
With the expected operation of GN Power to go online, Romualdo said Camelco’s consumers could end up paying P21 per kilowatt hour, which could be the highest in Mindanao.
The congressman said the exorbitant electricity rate was due to “over contracting” as Camelco went into deals with power producers more than its required need, as he suggested that Camelco cancel its contract with KEGI purposely to lower the island’s power rate.
“The problem with this PSA is that it is over contracted and we (consumers) are paying for this,” Romualdo said.
Mambajo Mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo called Camelco’s situation as due to “gross mismanagement.”
The mayor also expressed his worry of investors pulling out or not putting up their business on the island due to the power situation.
The elder Romualdo said he is even considering on filing charges against the Camelco management and directors for their failure to address the losses and to the NEA and ERC for allowing the utility’s financial problem to spin out of control.
He said he was baffled why NEA gave Camelco the “AAA” rating when it is already deep in debts and system losses.
According to the Department of Energy, the AAA rating is the highest score given by the NEA to electric cooperatives that indicates the power distributors’ full compliance on four parameters, namely, financial, institutional, technical, and reportorial requirements.
For his part, Legardo Galang Jr. of NEA said they will conduct their own investigation to determine who is answerable for the Camelco’s plight. (davaotoday.com)