Thursday, January 30, 2014

Casureco II: Blackout on Valentine’s Day?

Casureco II: Blackout on Valentine’s Day?
Casureco II: Blackout on Valentine’s Day?
The fate of Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Casureco) II hangs as the danger of disconnection from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) remains real and imminent.

This was confirmed by Project Supervisor and OIC General Manager Eddie Adlao, who in an exclusive interview with BICOL STANDARD, revealed that the electricity supply may be cut by the second week of February.

Temporary respite

Consumers enjoyed a brief respite after the cooperative was able to settle its obligations with power suppliers for the billing month covering December 26 to January 25.

Casureco II, for said billing month, settled its P59 million bill from power supplier Masinloc Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant last January 10. Meanwhile, on January 13, it settled its P12 million bill from BacMan Geothermal Plant.

This temporarily halted the disconnection.

However, another bill from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for the billing month of December 25 to January 26 arrived since then.

Out of the total P185 million WESM bill, the cooperative was only able to pay P113 million last January 24.

Sixty-four million pesos of this amount is for its power consumption, while the P49 million is for the prudential guarantee or security deposit.

Thus, the cooperative has a shortfall of P72 million, which became due and demandable last January 25.

On top of this unsettled obligation, the bills for the succeeding month are bound to arrive soon, dragging Casureco into a worse quandary.

Adlao estimates that the cooperative’s bill from the power suppliers for the billing month of January 26 to February 25 will be around P130 million.

This has been their average bill prior to the November price hike, which jacked up their bill to as much as P300 million.

“This is a really precarious situation,” he says, “since WESM is known for being intolerant of cooperatives that are unable to fully settle their obligations by the absolute deadline, which is on the first week of February.”

Persistent problems

Even as the price of electricity in the market stabilizes next month, the impact of the shortfall will continue to haunt Casureco II.

Adlao, for instance, notes that the shortfall greatly depleted their security deposits.

He expects that soon, the suppliers will demand for said fee, which will be around P49 million or even higher.

The problem, he lamented, will continue to snowball if no measures to mitigate it are undertaken.

Saving grace

If the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 33 injunctive order is not lifted in due time, the only saving grace, Adlao explained, is to borrow money from the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

For this reason, Adlao was authorized by virtue of a resolution passed last Monday, to negotiate for a loan that would bridge the cooperative’s finance in the face of the shortfall.

As per their computation, Casureco II needs P200 million to cover the deficiency in the collection for from previous months, and future power bills until the finances of the cooperative stabilize.

Adlao further said that out of the P200 million, P100 million will be allotted for the cooperative’s power bill covering January 26 to February 25. The rest would be saved for the succeeding billing month.

Said amount would be used to augment the shortfall that the cooperative had been facing since RTC Branch 33 imposed a freeze order on the price hike.

Earlier this month, the court ordered the cooperative to collect only P8.42 per kilowatt hour. The ruling was issued despite the increase in the price of electricity in the market.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), prior to the court order is said to have approved Casureco II’s petition to collect a rate of P15 per kilowatt hour.

Due to the freeze order, Casureco II suffered a loss of P7 per kilowatt hour.

Black Valentine

Adlao, meanwhile, promises that he will exhaust any and all remedies to prevent the looming disconnection.

He explained that he even made personal representation with the management of the power suppliers to seek their compassion, since Casureco II had been a good client in the past.

In fact, Adlao revealed that for many times, the cooperative had been awarded a prompt payment discount for settling its dues before the deadline.

If he succeeds, Casureco II’s consumers from the towns of Pili, Canaman, Milaor, Calabanga, Minalabac, Siruma, Tinambac, Bombon, and the city of Naga will enjoy continued power supply.

Otherwise, it will be a black Valentine this year for the power consumers.
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