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Monday, 30 October 2017 14:17

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — Sometime last August, Mr. Celso L. Lobregat, Zamboanga’s representative for the first district, wrote the Department of Energy and the National Electrification Administration asking the power agencies to “resolve the current stalemate on the Investment Management Contract (IMC) being considered to SAVE the operation of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco).”

Congressman Lobregat, according to Mr. Dexter Yap, asked Zamcelco to “consider modifying the current Terms of Reference of the proposed IMC.” He also asked NEA to consider allowing a negotiated contract for the IMC should there be another failed bidding (the third one) for an IMC.

Mr. Lobregat informed NEA that the rehabilitation of Zamcelco will require a substantial capital which can be provided by any of the prospective bidders (in this case, Aboitiz and Meralco). These companies, he said with authority, can provide managerial and technical expertise to “pull out the electric cooperative (Zamcelco) from its current losing status.” He continued: “With the present 21.5% system’s loss, it will be hard for Zamcelco to cope with their services to the people (consumers) without the IMC itself.”

Mr. Lobregat, whose district has been hit by devastating flash-floods two weeks ago, also asked Zamcelco’s Special Bids and Awards Committee to fast track the implementation of the IMC as he presented his interventions before some Zamcelco officials. In Mr. Lobregat’s letter to NEA, he underscored Zamcelco’s huge financial debt of approximately ONE BILLION PESOS. SOAG!

If plans do not miscarry, a third bidding will be done before Halloween or immediately after All Saints’ Day. Zamcelco needs an IMC. The consumers want an IMC because of the promise of reduced system’s loss by at least five percent, a staggering amount, ladies and gents, that is passed on to the consumers.

The letter of Mr. Lobregat to NEA dated July 29 explains it all. One area that has contributed to the huge system’s loss is power pilferage. And, if you investigate it, it’s not being done in areas as thought to be, but allegedly committed by big power users.

Must the adamant Zamcelco officials wait for NEA to issue a show-cause order for its failure to provide QUALITY SERVICE to its consumers? NEA has already announced that there is a need for electric cooperatives (EC) to be responsive and always on the lookout for the best interest of their consumers. Also, ECs that violate the RESPONSIBILITY STANDARDS set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) should be administratively sanctioned.

In order to bring down system’s loss, an electric cooperative like Zamcelco will require massive capital and operational expenses. Zamcelco will have to replace old distribution lines and equipment. The Angeles Electric Corp., for example, needs to spend P892 million if it is to reduce its system’s loss to five percent. Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Company will need a rehab fund of P1.84 billion, while Meralco will have to generate P65.53 billion for its loss-reduction program. Right now, poor Zamcelco does not have the money to do the above.

Meanwhile, the Alcantara Group of Companies has long allocated P15.3 billion for the construction of a 105-Megawatt baseload coal-fired power plant in San Ramon by the middle of next year. This plant when completed will be dedicated to the city of Zamboanga. Meaning, it will be a guarantee of sustained, reliable and cheap power for Zamboanga for at least 25 years.

Alsons is also building more power capacities in Mindanao because of the growing demand of growth centers in cities of Davao, Iligan, Sarangani and Zamboanga.

Aside from power, the Alcantara Group has interests in agribusiness, forestry and real estate development.