OVER P32 M UNPAID POWER BILL: Darkness looms in Rapu-Rapu

By Mar Arguelles


THE island town of Rapu-Rapu in Albay will plunge into darkness on Saturday, May 15 unless electric consumers there pay some P15 million of the total P32 million they owe the Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC).


Pat Gutierrez, APEC spokesperson, said the power firm will disconnect the electricity supply of the town if the consumers continue to fail to settle their power bills that have piled up for the past seven years.


In a phone interview on Monday, May 10, Gutierrez said the electric consumer in island town have a total of P32 million in unpaid bills since 2014, the year when APEC took over the management of the debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO).


Dennis Ilan, APEC deputy general manager, on May 4 requested the National Power Corporation (NPC) Bicol Operation Division to cut off power services in the island town for failure of the consumers there to pay their outstanding bills despite the repeated calls to settle their accounts.


Ilan, in his request, said the non-payment of bills by the consumers resulted in accumulated arrearages, which would have a serious impact on APEC’s ability to pay its obligation to the NPC.


APEC is paying P2 million monthly in power bills to NPC for providing diesel-fed power to the island town with 1,700 energy consumers and 72 Barangay Power Associations (BPAs).


APEC owes NPC P32 million due to the failure of the consumers from Rapu-Rapu to pay their electricity bills.


Rapu-Rapu Mayor Ronald Galicia, in a separate interview, said APEC is partly to blame for the accumulated amount of unpaid bills because of its poor collection system in the town. He said there are only three accredited collection centers in the town that accept power bill payments, causing inconvenience and difficulties to consumers in all the 34 villages.


Galicia said he has called on villagers with outstanding power bills to settle their accounts before the given deadline or face the consequence of a power blackout.


He also requested the APEC for consideration and to allow consumers to pay their outstanding balance on an installment basis.


For his part, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said he has already asked local officials to urge residents to pay their dues, and proposed that the town cashier’s office to be temporarily converted into a payment center for power consumers.


Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said he would talk with APEC officials and ask for a moratorium to give the town’s consumers at least one month to settle their debts.


Gutierrez said APEC gets its power supply from the San Miguel Energy Corp., (SMEC) and Wholesale electricity spot market or WESM.


She said APEC has unpaid bills of P4.2 billion with SMEC.


APEC, which is run by the San Miguel Corp. Global Holdings (SMCGH), has 205,000 power subscribers spread in the 15 towns and three cities of Albay province.


The firm’s operations, Gutierrez added, are marred by the unpaid bills of some 53,000 consumers, system losses caused by rampant power pilferages, and antiquated transmission lines and stations translating to losses of P142 million a month. (PNA)