Zamcelco—a dying public utility PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 July 2018 16:04

LOOKING IN

BY ROD BALBON

If it is liken to a sick patient, Zamcelco is now in a very critical condition, struggling to rise above water in order to live and survive. Its life-threatening financial sickness has enormously grown out of hand and almost beyond cure. Its accumulated debt to power providers is unbelievably huge and running in the hundreds of millions—P300 million to WMPC alone, not counting the three other providers. How much is the total amount of its debt to all of these power providers? Zamcelco has been silent and has never been forthright in telling the exasperated electric consumers of its precarious financial condition.

We can’t blame these power providers for their impending threat not to sell electric power to Zamcelco simply because it cannot pay promptly its very huge debt for a longer period of time now. These power providers are no sari-sari stores and are doing business with extensive capitalizations. Nobody in his right mind would do business without any guarantee of return of investment. They cannot forever supply the city electric power without being paid for it.

Something must be very wrong somewhere. When Zamcelco started serving the city’s electric consumers, we have not heard of its inability to pay electric providers. But now, its debt has grown tremendously that it can’t even pay one electric provider fully and promptly. This resulted not only to continuous brownouts, but on a bigger scale, the growth and development of the city. No right-thinking businessmen would come and establish their labor-extensive businesses here, like manufacturing, if they are not assured of a continuous and steady 24-hour electricity to run their machines to attain their targets and desired plant capacities.

Zamcelco is a multi-billion business enterprise primarily engaged in the very important and critical business of distributing electricity to electric consumers of Zamboanga City. But we, the electric consumers, are wondering why the people managing the daily operations of the cooperative and its policy makers are all lemons and have no track record in managing and policy-making. Competent and highly qualified persons should occupy these very important positions. Pray tell us, who are now running and managing the affairs of the cooperative?

Its Board is stocked by people who should not be there. Somebody informed me that its President is a retired public school teacher and its Board members are mostly barangay chairmen. They were elected to their positions with the support of politicians who never thought of the consequences of their acts by pushing these people without any corporate education, ideas and training. And who’s now the General Manager? Well, God bless him. Putting these people to run the multi-billion business of Zamcelco is disastrous and a great calamity. Calamitatis, calamitatum. These people now appear hopeless and clueless on how to devise ways to repair the damage they’ve done, e.g. the Board’s approval to the purchase of numerous Korea-made vehicles not needed by the cooperative despite knowledge of its financial difficulties. The Board likewise approved the purchase of the multi-million power generators that cannot be used immediately to augment the supply of electricity to consumers.  Some of these are still useless up to now.

The denizens of the city were glad when Zamcelco entered into an agreement with Meralco, where the latter will assume the management of the electric cooperative. I was informed that the profit sharing will be 60:40 with Meralco getting the bigger share and Zamcelco doing nothing. But the Integrated Management Contract (IMT) prepared by Zamcelco and presented to Meralco for their approval, was rejected by the latter. No satisfactory reasons were put forward by Meralco as to why it rejected the contract. Corrollary to this, a new power provider, SRPI, which has agreed to supply 100 MW of electricity to the city, are now in quandary because of this development. It is now finishing their power plant in San Ramon, ready to comply with its obligation. With Meralco managing Zamcelco, SRPI knew that the latter will be in good hands and it could expect the prompt payment of its power it will be supplying Zamcelco. Now with Meralco’s rejection of the IMC, will Zamcelco be able to pay SRPI their power supply, which will now be 100 MW, more than the total electricity of 95 MG needed by Zamboanga City?

We can only surmise that Zamcelco still wanted their key officials, including the entire Board of Directors, to continue staying in their profitable positions. These incompetent officials should all be kicked out pronto for milking the electric cooperative and prolonging the agony of the city’s electric consumers.