A timely bailout PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 April 2018 12:03

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — It’s probably the best news we’ve heard since the first day of the year: that the National Electrification Administration (NEA) approved two weeks ago the revised Terms of Reference (TOR) for the takeover of the beleaguered Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (Zamcelco) by Meralco through an Investment and Management Contract. It’s a bailout that Zamcelco needs to stop the financial bleeding and avert bankruptcy.

Zamboanga City was on the edge of the cliff two years ago because the electric consumers were tremendously concerned about the power situation and because of the continuous, pestering unannounced blackouts they were experiencing every day...and night. Afflicted with more than a billion-peso debt, and still counting, the IMC is well timed for a dying Zamcelco. Meralco and NEA and, of course, the management and board of Zamcelco will definitely power up Zamcelco from the brink of disaster.

When activated, hopefully before the end of April or early May, fresh capital will be infused into the cooperative and make available managerial and technical expertise to SAVE Zamcelco from financial ruin — the primary mission of which is to ensure QUALITY, RELIABLE, SUSTAINABLE power supply for the independent city of Zamboanga.

As NEA defines it: The IMC is an intervention for private sector involvement in the country’s electric cooperatives. It is a contract between an electric firm and a private investor whereby the latter shall infuse funds to cover the payment of and provisions for certain obligations of the electric cooperative, and manage and operate the electric coop for a performance-based remuneration. At best, the IMC will guarantee that Zamcelco will be managed more efficiently, making it a financially-viable power firm.

There is really a need to upgrade Zamcelco’s system. Power outages happen because of row problems and poor maintenance of these lines and old, overloaded transformers that get busted sometimes. Millions of pesos, the kind of money that Zamcelco doesn’t have, will be needed to upgrade a very old electric system.

Equally important is for Zamboanga to have its own efficient power generation before it becomes part of a federal region. I’m theorizing, but in three years’ time we shall have a second embedded power plant in San Ramon. This will answer the call for a sustained and affordable electricity for an advancing city, although somewhat slow, like Zamboanga. The first of such embedded plants is the Western Mindanao Power Corp. When put together, San Ramon Power Inc. and WMPC can generate a total of 205 megawatts of power, more than enough for our power requirements for the next 25 years.

It is important to get the IMC going at the earliest possible time. Zamboanga will need its own independent source of electricity if, for example, the other federal regions and cities in Mindanao that we presently draw our power from would cut us off to cater to their own demand for electricity.

Having enough power supply will jive with the “Build, Build, Build” program of El Presidente. The more shopping malls and buildings coming up, the more power Zamboanga shall be needing. When in the future a new airport will be constructed and the present airport location is transformed into a Makati or Bonifacio, and the Mindanao Railway System becomes a reality, our demand for electricity will quadruple.

More power to you, Zamboanga!