BEHIND THE LINES: Porque? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 14:58

BY BOB JALDON

 

San Jose, CA. — Engr. George Ledesma, general manager of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco), is a highly-educated, extremely intelligent person. He should be — otherwise he would not have been hired to run a company that’s heavy in debt and drudged with undesirables and misfits. He dances well, too. So is Engineer Efren Wee, a Rotarian and, therefore, a civic-minded, compassionate individual who was educated, I was informed, in Munich, Germany. He is a non-voting, NEA-appointed member of the board of the same waning electric cooperative.

My single, simple question to them, as also being asked persistently by Zamcelco’s clients, is this: “Why are you, gentlemen, raised to put ahead your better judgement ahead of everything, opposed to the conduct of an enhancement program (EP) in Zamcelco that will make OUR electric cooperative operate better and, therefore, pave the way for the construction of a power plant solely dedicated for Zamboanga city that promises efficient and sufficient power at cheaper rates for 25 years and perhaps beyond?

From what I gathered, Zamcelco is losing precious money gradually annually. For example, its system loss as of December 2014 is near 30 percent. It owes PSALM more than P700 million as of third quarter ending last year. Its net loss grew to P61 million in 2013 with a net margin of P94 million as of December 2014.

Take a load of this: An important provision in the power sales agreement (PSA) reached by Zamcelco and the San Ramon Power, Inc. (SRPI) and approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) requires Zamcelco to attain a rating of “A” from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) based on NEA’s official rating procedure of performance of electric cooperatives. Right now, Zamcelco is rated “C” by NEA.

If SRPI has spent $5.7 million or roughly P250 million in developmental costs since 2010 and its mother company, ALSONS, has a market capitalization of over P12 billion as a publicly-listed company in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), why can’t it go ahead and build the coal-fired power plant in San Ramon without waiting for Zamcelco’s enhancement program to commence?

Good question. The answer, as explained by SRPI, is: It is a standard norm in major infrastructure projects to have a financial close before commencing construction of a particular project. In order to achieve that, Zamcelco must undertake an enhancement program which will make it financially viable and, thereby, satisfy the project lenders (banks) and investors. With or without SRPI or any power provider for that matter, Zamcelco needs to be financially viable or face disconnection in the future from its main power suppliers or even worse — TOTAL COLLAPSE.

Last year, as I recall it, the president of SRPI issued a commitment statement to the people of Zamboanga, promising, among others, to deliver safe, reliable and affordable power to us, the real owners of Zamcelco. The plant is an embedded one that will provide:

1. Lower power costs for consumers ( no transmission charges which means over P12 billion saved;

2. Rental payments to the Zamboecozone of P1.734 billion as the biggest investor/locator thereat;

3. Taxes to be paid directly to the city government amounting to P1.5 billion, or P60 million a year for 25 years;

4. DOE-mandated ER 1-94 funds amounting to P195 million, or P7.8 million/year for 25 years;

5. Employment opportunities for the people of the three host barangays; and

6. Serve as a magnet for investment in Zamboanga because of assured supply of electricity as power will not pass through the NGCP’s transmission lines which are prone to outages and sabotage.

What else do we want? For more than 20 years, we have been yearning for stable electricity in exchange for the exorbitant rates that we’ve been paying. No one listened to our cries, as thievery and corruption in the cooperative prevailed over good. We now have a chance to be better. Grab it!

Cosa pa ustedes ta espera, hijos?