An ugly past haunts FICELCO’s present and future
posted 7-Jun-2018  ·  
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Aside from power, truth is in short supply in the Catanduanes island grid.

Officials of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) has not been so forthcoming about the power situation, reaching out only when the situation gets worse and earns attention in social and traditional media. It has not helped that three of the seven directors are said to be stooges of an industry player.

The power suppliers, particularly the IPPs, have not been so open about their operations  either.

That’s why both Governor Joseph Cua and Congressman Cesar Sarmiento expressed frustration at their being left in the dark on the present and projected power situation in the island. Some officials in Marinawa, though, contest this as mere posturing for voters as they claim to have provided regular updates to the province’s leaders.

The secrecy regarding the way IPPs sell power to the cooperative and the latter distributes electricity to more than 54,000 households, government buildings, and commercial establishments dates back to the day when Power One Corp. signed its Electricity Supply Agreement with FICELCO.

This paper’s publisher came upon the deal’s primary actors at the time and asked for a copy of the agreement. The request was denied, with the Power One officials citing the clause of confidentiality included in the agreement.

Since then, supply deals entered into by the cooperative with two IPPs – Catanduanes Power Generation, Inc.  (CPGI) and Sunwest Water & Electricity Co. (SUWECO) – have been shrouded in secrecy.

It did not matter to the board of directors who approved the agreements that they have the responsibility to inform their consumers, who will pay for every kilowatt-hour of electricity whether utilized or not, of the provisions material to the cost of power.

Likewise, it did not matter to the board of directors that FICELCO member-consumers have the right to know whether the agreements they executed with the IPPs are favorable to the consumer.

It was only through the Energy Regulatory Commission’s order approving the ESA between the cooperative and SUWECO that we learned that the cost of construction of the Capipian mini-hydroelectric power plant in San Miguel town has been included in the computation of the Capital Recovery Fee (CRF) which every consumer pays as part of the generation rate since the ESA was approved.

Despite this, the 2014 board, for whatever reason, decided to approve an amendment allowing SUWECO to move back the date of completion of the Capipian plant from 2013 to December 2018. And now, with the IPP informing the cooperative board only recently that it would not construct the Capipian MHPP due to issues with the transmission lines, the present board is unsure of what it would do regarding SUWECO’s apparent failure to comply with its contractual obligation.

This only shows that the FICELCO board needs expert legal advice, probably of the kind who will not sell out to the other party, to thresh out the issues entangling its power supply agreements. Among those needing resolution would be the failure of both CPGI and SUWECO to supply their annual contracted energy.

In the light of these dark moments just past, it is incumbent for the FICELCO board of directors to take a decisive step, amend the contracts to remove whatever onerous or unfair provisions the previous board inserted therein, and finally work for their member-consumers.

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