Learning a lesson from FICELCO’s situation
posted 21-Apr-2019  ·  
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Despite the intermittent power outages which have been attributed to line faults, officials of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) is confident that there will be adequate power supply this summer.

This optimistic view was aired by General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe after the board of directors agreed with the proposal of Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) to operate its 6.6-megawatt diesel gensets this April even without the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The decision was made on the strength of the commitment of SUWECO officials Buenaventura Co and Floro Barrameda to run the six 1.1-MW gensets at the Subsidized Approved Generation Rate (SAGR) of P5.6404/kWh, instead of the true cost of about P11 per kWh.

To recover the costs, the company will file a petition with the ERC once the latter approves the 2nd Amendment of the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) with FICELCO.

The application for approval of the 2nd Amendment covering the new diesel gensets has been pending before ERC, which recently required SUWECO to secure an indorsement from the Department of Energy (DOE), which in turn required that the cooperative board, through a resolution, express its willingness to pursue the amendment.

That resolution was approved by the FICELCO board last week but with one major condition: that the amendment do away with the provision that, in case FICELCO needs additional power, SUWECO is obligated to supply the same.

The board heeded the advice of the cooperative’s legal counsel, Atty. Rizalina Velasco-Tañon, that the 2nd Amendment provision would be in contravention with the DOE Memorandum Circular mandating that all power procurements be done through a Competitive Selection Process (CSP).

It may be recalled that the National Electrification Administration (NEA), through an audit, had already criticized FICELCO officials for approving the amendments without studying its implications.

To be clear, there is no way the cooperative can unilaterally cancel the controversial amendments as the previous boards had already approved and signed it. There is also the matter of the administrative complaint filed with NEA by SUWECO against some members of the board, who could face disqualification from future district elections if they are found lose the case.

The FICELCO legal counsel’s stand on the 2nd Amendment provision as far as the prevailing CSP guidelines are concerned, and the board’s agreement with the advice, is a step in the right direction as far as their responsibility to work for the benefit of the cooperative’s 50,000 member-consumer-owners is concerned.

Ever since the scourge of vote-buying, from mere packs of cigarettes to stapled cash, changed not only the dynamics of FICELCO district elections but also the very souls of majority of the elected directors, the supposed “owners” of the cooperative have been at the losing end of disadvantageous power deals as well as irregular procurements.

Year after year and district election after district election, sad to say, these “owners” of FICELCO have been allowed themselves to be used by the unscrupulous directors in reimbursing themselves of their campaign expenses through whatever means possible. And they have largely remained silent, meekly accepting the reality that they are paying more for the substandard service they receive from the public utility and its suppliers.

As the current electoral campaign for positions in the national and local governments goes into high gear, voters in Catanduanes should take some time to reflect on the situation at the electric cooperative and the island’s power grid.

Surely, what is happening at cooperative’s Marinawa headquarters and the grid is being multiplied a hundredfold in LGUs and other elective posts administered by many politicians who are only looking after their own interests.

It should convince enough of the Catandunganon voters to carefully select who among the candidates for senators, partylist group, congressman, governor, vice governor, provincial board members, mayors, vice, mayors and councilors are truly deserving of their votes.

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