Bobby Q. Labalan, Media Solutions
At least six municipalities and one city in the province of Sorsogon are in danger of losing its power supply anytime this coming months if the local electric cooperative would not be able to settle its accounts with the National Power Corporation.
Officers of the Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (SORECO II) was compelled to reveal this at the special session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan after information leaked out that the electric cooperative was heavily indebted to the power agency.
Lawyer Percival Alvarez, SORECO II acting general manager, said the electric cooperative owes Napocor as much as P240 million in power bills which had accumulated over the years.
He said Napocor officials had refused to renew their power supply contract which expired September 2009, leaving them without source of electricity once Napocor cuts its supply.
Included in SORECO II’s service areas are the towns of Donsol, Pilar, Castilla, Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona and Sorsogon City.
During the session, he said that they were trying to negotiate with independent power producers (IPPs) but they were being required a deposit equivalent to at least two months consumption amounting to P66 million, which the cash-strapped cooperative does not have.
Alvarez attributed the huge debt of the cooperative to the high system’s loss and low collection as well as to the various internal problems which started in 1998 when its employees went on strike.
Coop insiders said one of the problems that saddle SORECO II is its Board of Directors whose members have taken an active role in the day-to-day operation of the power firm, hampering the smooth flow of transactions.
They said whimsical decisions of the board had also resulted in the bloated manpower as well as in the labor disputes which usually ended up with the coop paying for damages to its employees.
As of now, SORECO II pays for the salaries and wages of two general managers which were earlier dismissed by the board but were ordered reinstated by the labor department after it was proven that they were illegally dismissed. Worse, these managers no longer work at the coop but still draw salaries.
Members of the provincial board lamented the dire situation of the cooperative but rejected its plea for financial help saying the coop should shape up or ship out.
Board Member Cherrie Diaz, chair of the SP Committee on Energy, said coop officials should now seriously consider the possibility of privatization to save it from total collapse.
Diaz noted that members of the coop’s board are political wannabes who either lost in their political bid or awaiting local elections.
Diaz said there are some companies interested in acquiring the power coop and this should be properly considered by its officers.
Meanwhile, Gov. Sally Lee said the coop is grossly mismanaged which resulted to endless woes confronting its now.
Lee said the provincial government could not provide any financial help to the embattled cooperative as it would be unjustified.
The government came to SORECO’s rescue when it was badly hit by typhoon “Milenyo,” but now its mismanagement had caused this problem, she said.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan said all that it could do is to pass a resolution requesting the National Electrification Administration to release the P15 million balance of the P50-million assistance approved by Pres Arroyo when “Milenyo” battered the province.