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PENITENSYA! | SMEC cuts off CASURECO III's power supply anew

Casureco III File Photo
via Melvin Machado
IRIGA CITY—Hellish summer heat greeted Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO III) consumers Monday (April 6), a day after the Holy Week break.

The power supply was cut off midday today after the electric coop failed to settle its P67 million obligation to San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC).

Casureco III was reportedly able to raise P9 million only.

Its debt from various power suppliers has already ballooned to as much as 1.2 billion pesos.

As a result of the disconnection, the towns of Nabua, Bula, Baao, Bato, Balatan, Buhi and the city of Iriga—all of which are serviced by the cooperative—are again without power.

As of press time, there is no word as to when the power supply may be reconnected.

It will be recalled that the electric cooperative was disconnected from the Luzon power grid on March 30.

In an interview by BICOL STANDARD, Casureco III Administrator Fernando Turiano said that power supply of CASURECO III was originally scheduled to be disconnected before March 30, but the management pleaded for an extension.

CASURECO III was allowed to raise the money until Saturday, March 28, but was unable to do so.

Power was, however, later restored upon the intervention of Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is from Iriga City.

Among the possible reasons for CASURECO III’s financial woes are ineffective management, systems loss, an excessive number of employees, and corruption of funds.

Objection

Residents of the Rinconada area are now up in arms over the power cut.

Among those objecting is Engr. Solomon Ngo, who heads the Camarines Sur Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In an interview by BICOL STANDARD, Ngo said that the disconnection has a massive impact not only on households, but also on businesses operating in the area.

He called the move to privatize the coop “anti-poor.”

He urged the public to assess their situation to what happened to Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO), which underwent privatization.

Parallelism

After San Miguel Corporation’s subsidiary Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) acquired ALECO and renamed it  Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC), the problems continued, Ngo said.

The consumers still suffer frequent brownouts and shoulder more than twice the price of electricity than that which was offered by ALECO, he claimed.

“The very same thing could happen to us here in the Rinconada area,” he said. “What really bothers me is that in this setup, the minimum consumers in the rural areas would suffer the most.”

“We should be concerned about this because we live in an area frequented by typhoons. When typhoons visit our area, the least priority is always rehabilitation. This is because millions require to be spent, but the collection is merely in the thousands,” Ngo explained.

“Baka po sa urban area, may kuryente, sa rural area mayo,” he said.

Last recourse

Ngo also declared that “The privatization of CASURECO III should have been the last recourse to the problem.”

“My recommendation was to allow other electric cooperatives, such as Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) to bid on the operation of CASURECO III. But it seemed like the Board of Directors had already made up their minds, because they wanted either IMC [investment management contract] or concession,” he added.

Ngo said that they were told they had no other viable option because allegedly all electric cooperatives are in debt.

“Dai po totoo yan,” he asserted.

He stressed that they were made to believe that no one would bid on CASURECO III because it has an outstanding debt of 1.2 billion pesos. But ALECO, he said, had an even greater debt of 4 billion pesos, and BENECO still bid on its operation.

Earlier this month, the stakeholders also considered joint venture, management contract, operation and maintenance contract, special equipment and material lease agreement, merger, and consolidation, as solutions to the problems of the embattled cooperative.—With Report from Jon-Jon Oyales, BICOLSTANDARD.COM Pirming enot. Pirming Bago

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