Mayor no-show at rally over N. Ecija town power messBy Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang
Inquirer Central Luzon
PANTABANGAN, Nueva Ecija—Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. was a no-show at a Monday dialogue requested by civic leaders and residents who gathered at the municipal hall to demand an explanation why power supply in the town was cut off on July 23.
First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC), which owns and operates the Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric complex, cut off supply to the local government-run Pantabangan Municipal Electric System (Pames) last week over the town’s P80-million unpaid bills.
Pames supplies power to Pantabangan and neighboring Alfonso Castañeda town in Nueva Vizcaya, which sent its own delegation to the dialogue and protest action on Monday.
Power has yet to be restored in the town as of Monday noon and residents and business owners in the town have been complaining of inconvenience for a week now.
Reached by telephone on Monday, Borja said he missed the dialogue because he had to attend an important meeting with Gov. Aurelio Umali.
Borja said he had started threshing out the dispute with an official of FGHPC because the town government believes it owes only P53 million.
“If we really have a huge debt, why is it that it took them five years to [enforce] the disconnection?” Borja said.
FGHPC, in an official bulletin issued last week, said its decision to finally cut off power supply to Pames was triggered by Pames’ failure to pay at least P7 million on June 30 “despite the reasonable extension granted upon the municipality’s request.”
Asked why he refused to respond to charges that he mismanaged the local government, Borja said: “Responding to these charges would be inconvenient. I just work to address the issue.”
It was his son, Vice Mayor Romeo Borja Jr., who faced the crowd, only to draw outrage when he enumerated the residents and institutions who owe Pames, including the leaders of the protest action.
He said Barangay Malbang owes Pames P1.4 million, while Barangay Villarica, the host village of the Pantabangan Dam, owes P2.3 million.
The vice mayor admitted he also has unpaid bills covering eight months.
The parish church also owes Pames P22,000 in unpaid electric bills, and Fr. Ernie Pisimo, parish priest, said he intended to settle it yesterday.
Pisimo said Mayor Borja had promised to take care of the church’s obligations to Pames.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño joined the dialogue at the Town Hall.
“There should be a performance audit of Pames … We in Congress will initiate an investigation for allegations of corruption when we take up the franchise renewal of Pames,” Casiño said.