‘But ZAMCELCO faces bigger problem with WMPC’
COMPLAINTS ARE MOUNTING against the privately-owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) because of voltage fluctuation, and even electric cooperatives in Mindanao, including the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (ZAMCELCO), are blaming the company for its failure to ensure regular and steady flow of electricity to its consumers.
ZAMCELCO has repeatedly blamed NGCP for the voltage fluctuation. It has written NGCP multiple times and demanding explanation for its poor services, and to improve the transmission of electricity to the cooperative. But NGCP – in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid – has ignored all communications sent by ZAMCELCO for a still unknown reason.
Now, ZAMCELCO wants the national government to look into the NGCP and help resolve the problem after local residents complained of broken electrical appliances due to the fluctuation of voltage. There were also reports that voltage fluctuation and the sudden surge of electricity sparked fires in Zamboanga.
It has previously blamed the power outages in Zamboanga and other parts of Western Mindanao to the trees and vegetation planted along its transmission facilities.
The NGCP consortium is comprised of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corporation, Calaca High Power Corporation and the State Grid Corporation of China and it holds the 25-year concession contract and the 50-year franchise to operate the power transmission network. Its board of directors are Zhu Guangchao, Shan Shewu, Liu Ming, Liu Xinhua – of the State Grid Corporation of China; and Filipinos Henry Sy, Jr., Robert Coyiuto, Jr., Jose Pardo, Francis Chua, Anthony Almeda, and Paul Sagayo, Jr.
But aside from voltage fluctuation, ZAMCELCO is also faced with a bigger problem after Western Mindanao Power Corporation (WMPC) threatened to cut off electricity supply if it fails to pay over P97 million in debts.
In April this year, WMPC cut off electricity supply to ZAMCELCO – now under the management of Crown Investments Holdings, Inc. and Desco Inc. – after it refused to pay its overdue account of P235 million. Crown Investments Holdings, Inc. and Desco Inc. took over ZAMCELCO in January after bailing out the heavily-indebted and poorly-managed electric cooperative for P2.5 billion.
ZAMCELCO claims that WMPC had overbilled the electric cooperative since 2015 by P440 million. WMPC is being run by Alto Power Management Corporation, a partnership between Alsons Consolidated Resources, Inc. through Conal Holdings Corporation and Toyota Tshusho Corporation of Japan.
It also operates diesel plants of the Mapalad Power Corporation in Iligan City and the Southern Philippines Power Corporation in Sarangani province. It was unknown whether former ZAMCELCO officials had knowledge of the over-billing or not, but many executives had been sacked the past years by the National Electrification Administration on corruption allegations.
Now both ZAMCELCO and WMPC are locked in a legal battle with Zamboanga suffering the brunt of the business rift between the two companies. ZAMCELCO also stopped buying electricity from WMPC and is now scouting for new suppliers. It also acquired more expensive diesel-powered generators to be able to supply Zamboanga’s power demand of at least 80 megawatts.
Local Mayor Beng Climaco had repeatedly brokered in the dispute and managed to convince ZAMCELCO to initially pay its overdue accounts to WMPC to resolve the power outages here.
Rotational power outages which began in February have already affected the local economy with many business establishments spending more on fuel to run their generators for hours on a daily basis. The lack of household electricity also put heavy burden on residents and many of them rely on ZAMCELCO for power supply because they cannot afford to buy their own generators.
Since 2012, Zamboanga also suffered from severe power curtailment – as much as 6 hours a day and at worst, 14 hours or more. And ZAMCELCO – whose manager then was George Ledesma – blamed the power crisis to El Niño weather phenomenon and maintenance shutdown of hydro and coal-fired power plants in Mindanao.
ZAMCELCO could only wait for the construction of the 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Alsons Power Holdings which was set to begin operation in 2016 in the village of Talisayan. But Alsons failed to start building its facility and cited many reasons for the long delay – from the failed Moro rebellion here in 2013 to the P900-million enhancement program it was demanding from ZAMCELCO as an assurance it could pay them for the stable supply of electricity.
Even today, Alsons has not started construction of its coal-fired power plant here and ZAMCELCO said it would not purchase electricity from Alsons or what it is called now the San Ramon Power, Inc. due to the current problems involving its demand for WMPC to refund the P440 million so it can return it to electric consumers.
Vice Mayor Rommel Agan also filed an urgent motion with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for ZAMCELCO and WMPC to maintain a status quo while both firms are trying to forge a new compromise agreement in settling the problem.
Climaco also asked ZAMCELCO board of directors to conduct a thorough review of all existing contracts entered into by the cooperative with power producers.
She asked the board of directors “review all existing contracts the power utility firm has entered into during the past and previous managements.”
The review on all ZAMCELCO’s contracts is necessary to ensure the cooperative’s operation is effective and responsive to the needs of its member-consumers and making sure that it is financially viable and technically capable, Climaco said.
“We really want that anyone who sits in the Board helps the consumers of Zamboanga on how we will be able to attain a 24-hour electricity that is stable and without voltage fluctuations, and affordable,” she said. (Zamboanga Post)
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