Albay power users want APEC out
Firm demands reimbursement
By Cet Dematera and Rhaydz Barcia
LEGAZPI CITY---Due to alleged massive mismanagement of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) in eight years, the cooperative’s Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) had finally voted last September 4 to terminate the concession contract with the private-owned Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC).
Albay Gov. Noel Rosal said that after the contract termination, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) could now step in to work for the transition of management back to ALECO.
But Rosal clarified that the new ALECO management would not mean immediate lowering of the cost of electric consumption.
Despite ALECO taking over the new management, Rosal reminded the consumers that electricity is not free; does not mean immediate reduction of electric rate; and, “you must pay your electric bills.”
Data presented both by ALECO and NEA showed that ALECO and APEC incurred a combined whopping estimated debt of P9.9-billion as of June 30.
NEA also reported that APEC failed in all the standards that it should have had strictly observed based on the existing pertinent laws and on what were stipulated in the concession contract.
NEA also pinpointed to the massive out-sourcing of services and hiring of highly-paid consultants as among the reasons for the ballooning of debt to billions of pesos in its eight years of ALECO management.
It also blamed APEC for its failure to reduce the systems losses that also immensely contributed to the continuously ballooning debt.
Rosal said that they have already officially requested the Department of Energy (DoE) to grant ALECO a certificate of exemption (COE) so that it would not totally resort to the wholesale electricity stock market (WESM) for its supply of electricity.
“Once ALECO buys electricity to WESM, we will suffer the very high cost of electric rate should the rate in the spot market also sour high,” Rosal warned.
The ALECO Board of Directors also threatened to sue APEC for the alleged illegal termination of the members of the ALECO Employees Organization (ALEO).
As this developed, APEC expressed willingness to terminate the concession contract, provided investment and loans are taken under consideration.
Exorbitant power bills, series of rotational power outages and unpaid debts are among the factors why power consumers in Albay voted for the termination of the 25-year concession agreement between the Albay provincial government and the Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC) in a special general membership assembly held on Sunday, Sept. 4, this year.
The 205,000 power users from Albay’s 3 cities and 15 municipalities who attended the gathering claimed that APEC, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation Global Power Holdings, committed overcharging when it imposed the P18.3999 per kWh power rate from July to August 2022. They said that in June, this year, the power firm imposed a P15.7233/kWh rate.
It was also learned from the assembly that aside from exorbitant power rates, Albayanos continue to suffer poor services because of series of rotational brownouts. They also assailed APEC for its unpaid debts to power suppliers that ballooned to P9.3 billion in 2022 from P4 billion in 2013.
The assembly, which was the first to be conducted from the time that APEC took over the reins of the cooperative 9 years ago, was organized with the guidance from the office of Governor Noel Rosal who wished to hear from his constituents whether to retain or terminate the concession agreement entered into by and between the province of Albay and APEC.
In the assembly, Rosal told the member-consumers that since the concession agreement was already terminated, a transition team from NEA will be the one that will temporarily supervise the operation of the coop for the benefit of the 1.3 million Albayanos.
“A transition team from National Electric Cooperative (NEA) will temporarily manage the operations before reverting it back to the Albay Electric Cooperative,” the governor said.
Rosal expressed hope that APEC will cooperate and comply with the decision by the member-consumers in the general assembly.
ALECO is the franchise holder of power coop registered with the NEA as “non-stock, non-profit and apolitical service-oriented entity. It was granted the sole franchise to operate the power coop for 50 years by the provincial government.
ALECO, however, mismanaged the operations of the electric cooperative in 1993, a situation that prompted NEA to take over.
A year after, APEC officially took over the management of the debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) after the former won the bidding under the private sector participation (PSP) scheme. The SMC through APEC managed and operated ALECO.
Rep. Joey Salceda said that immediately after the Albayanos terminated the concession agreement he talked with Secretary Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla of the Dept. of Energy to ensure the continuous power supply in Albay that might be cut off due to perceived legal conflicts that may arise brought about by the termination of the agreement.
“I immediately talked with Secretary Lotilla and requested him to intervene by seeing to it that power supply in Albay will not be affected just in case a conflict arises like legal skirmishes due to the termination of the concession agreement,” Salceda said.