Promising moves by FICELCO management
posted 23-Apr-2019  ·  
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The current management of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) deserves the appreciation of its 50,000 member-consumer-owners for trying to do what it should have done years ago.

Apparently, the board did right in hiring Engr. Raul Zafe, a former cooperative official who worked with the National Power Corporation (NPC), to be its general manager.

One of the first things he did was to hire a legal counsel from among the local law practitioners, doing away with its long-time attorney from Manila who had been with the cooperative for decades.

Hiring a local lawyer who sees things from the perspective of the ordinary power consumer is certainly better than continuing the services of one who experiences brownouts only when he is on the island,

Already, it has paid a dividend, with the new hire, Atty. Rizalina Velasco-Tañon, advising the board of directors to move for the removal of the 2nd Amendment provision that would allow Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) to supply any future power requirement of the cooperative without need of a contract. Such a provision in the ESA amendment, she correctly pointed out, would be in violation of the Department of Energy’s memorandum circular mandating the procurement of new power requirement through Competitive Selection Process (CSP).

During last week’s hearing conducted by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on NPC’s petition for a higher Subsidized Approved Generation Rate (SAGR) due to the excise tax imposed by the TRAIN Law, GM Zafe manifested the board of director’s intention to file an opposition to the petition, on its own and separate from that of the group of island cooperatives. The proposed SAGR increase would add nearly three pesos per kilowatthour to existing rates within three years, which the GM said should instead be charged to the Universal Charge-Missionary Electrification (UC-ME).

This recent moves are a sharp but welcome departure from the actions of past BODs, which had been content with whatever deals it can get from its suppliers without considering the welfare of consumers who were promised reliable and affordable electricity.

Its biggest power supplier recently wrote the cooperative that it is suspending the Capipian Mini-Hydroelectric Power Plant (CMHPP) project for 120 days due to environmental issues brought about by the approval of the the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act last year.

The change in regulation, a SUWECO official said in the latter, meant it could no longer apply for government permits for the use of the forest land in which the mini-hydroelectric power plant is to be constructed.

While the company stressed its intention to pursue its commitments under the Amended ESA, either by exploring all available remedies with respect to the new regulations or looking for other locations where the project could be built, it did not indicate the current stage of the project construction.

Under the 1st Amendment, Capipian MHPP is supposed to have been completed last December 2018.

It should be noted that since the amendment was signed, the electric cooperative has not reported to its member-consumer-owners the status of the Capipian project despite the fact that, like infrastructure projects undertaken by government contractors, it is supposed to exercise due diligence in monitoring the progress of the project.

Last year, there were some indications that the board would form a technical team to assess the status of the Capipian project but apparently nothing has come out of the proposal.

This early, at a time when lack of rain and rising temperatures bring unscheduled power outages, the cooperative, and its member-consumer-owners would be best served by a joint assessment of the Capipian project.


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