Let’s go, Celso! PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 June 2016 14:14

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

I haven’t spoken to the man in three years, may be more. When I accidentally bumped into him last Sunday at the annual membership general assembly of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco) at the city coliseum, he said, “Bob, long time no see.” I responded with, “congratulations” (on his reelection). That was it. But, seriously, Rep. Celso L. Lobregat is the ONLY ONE who could, at this time, push to save the yellow-classified Zamcelco from total collapse.

As things are, the Terms of Reference (TOR) required to pursue an Investment Management Contract to manage the sinking electric cooperative is gathering dust at the National Electrification Administration (NEA) because of a glitch requiring immediate congressional action. Zamcelco’s franchise expires in 12 years. An IMC will need at least 20 years to turn things around and make a little profit. That’s why the TOR has to be reconfigured.

Zamcelco’s lines, transformers and meters are antiquated — the main cause of its 22 percent system’s loss. It is late in payments to power providers in the millions of pesos. These power suppliers can just simply pull the plug rendering Zamboanga in darkness for hours daily.

Being the vice chairman of the House committee on energy and the committee on appropriations, Mr. Lobregat is our last hope of seeing the TOR approved with haste by NEA so that the bidding can commence before the end of the third quarter this year. He is the key to everything. He, too, can author a bill in the House extending the franchise of Zamcelco considering the urgency of the need to hire an IMC.

The supply of energy for Zamboanga has been short until last December when Zamcelco contracted 50 megawatts from the Western Mindanao Power Corp. and with the increase in the allocation of power from Psalm. Why are we experiencing sometimes 30 minutes to an hour of blackout? When power soars, the old rotting lines and the transformers cannot hold the searing load leading to line trippings. The crisis should be averted. The waste of energy due to leaks that contribute immensely to Zamcelco’s system’s loss is so ridiculously high as the utilization rate of power continues to increase.

Zamboanga consumes about 94 megawatts of power daily, twice as much as our consumption in the ’70s. The rates have steadily increased because of the soaring price of oil to operate diesel plants. As coal plants made on entry into the power market, so did solar energy. A great quantity of oil could be saved if these twin modes of energy generation can be fully achieved. That, of course, will require adjustments to the grid.

Zamcelco’s technology, backward equipment and obsolete management technique should be changed. Zamboanga does not lack energy sources. But we cannot rely solely on power provided by “outsiders”. We have an embedded power plant in Sangali owned by Alsons Consolidated Resources. When we get the TOR approved, the 100 megawatt coal plant in San Ramon will start construction and will be completed in 2019. That plant, based on the Power Supply Agreement (PSA) signed between Zamcelco and San Ramon Power, Inc. (SRPI), will exclusively supply power to Zamboanga for 25 or so years. When all the power providers fail to deliver electricity because of breakdowns and maintenance work, we shall have SRPI to lean on.

Think of it from a broader spectrum. If federalism becomes the form of government and we shall become the INDEPENDENT STATE OF ZAMBOANGA, we will need our own source of power. SRPI becomes that source. But that’s pushing the economic and political reconstruction too far. But federalism will be pushed by the instant majority in both Houses of congress. The other “states” can develop their own energy source, depending on what they desire — coal, natural gas, geothermal, wind or solar — with emphasis on developing what is most beneficial to their respective economy.

Going back to Mr. Lobregat, he is the only one who can fast track the approval of the TOR so that the IMC can immediately be bidded. He is our best and greatest “lobbyist” with the Manila government. And the board and management of Zamcelco should also display serious concern for this exploration. As I see it, they don’t seem to care.

Let’s go, Celso!