Monday, October 3, 2016

Local execs of Albay join hands vs looming power cut off

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 3 (PNA) -- Local officials in Albay have joined hands to address the threat of a total power cut off in December from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) should the Albay Power Energy Corp. (APEC) fail to collect the outstanding bill of P1.8 billion from its consumers.

Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, in a phone interview, said if APEC would not be able to solve this problem, he would bring the matter to President Rodrigo Duterte and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

He said APEC’s operations showed signs of mismanagement as reflected in the “poor performance of its billing and collection system.”

“The LGU’s (local government units) hands are tied in helping them collect the outstanding bills from the consumers,” said Bichara.

He said the LGU could only refer the list of unpaid bills to local executives but APEC has to do the actual collection.

Bichara said he met with the local town and city chief executives about the impending power blackout in December.

“We are fully supporting APEC but there should have some improvement in their collection and billing system,” he said.

Albay third district Representative Fernando Gonzalez, in a text message, said blaming each other will not resolve the problem.

“Let us work together to resolve it. APEC has to improve its billing system to make collections more effective,” he said.

Pat Gutierrez, APEC public affairs consultant, said NGCP recently served a notice to APEC to settle its outstanding account or face a power cut off in the entire province of Albay on December 22.

She said APEC has around P1.8 billion in collectibles from the 180,000 consumers in Albay’s 15 towns and three cities.

Gutierrez said that only 30 percent of its customers regularly pay their power bills while the 70 percent are deemed as “customers of not good standing.”

She said APEC needs to raise 50 percent or P900 million to save the province from the looming power blackout in December.

APEC, a subsidiary of San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC), took over the operation of the financially strapped Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) in 2014 after entering into a 25-year management contract with ALECO.

But APEC has been saddled with poor billing and collection system, frequent power outages and high system losses.

SMEC has been helping subsidize APEC with its power bills but it recently served notice it could no longer continue doing this because of overhead expenses incurred in its other energy ventures.

Gutierrez said SMEC advised APEC that to sustain its operations it has to do better in its billing and collection efforts. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/CBD