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Abra faces blackout if it fails to pay debts

BAGUIO CITY—A geothermal firm has warned Abra it may suffer from blackouts again after Christmas if its power utility fails to pay its obligations, the Philippine Daily Inquirer learned on Friday.

The Aboitiz Power Renewables Inc., which operates the Tiwi-Makban geothermal power in Batangas, Laguna and Albay, issued the Abra Electric Cooperative (Abreco) a disconnection notice on Dec. 17 and warned it would discontinue service on Dec. 27 if the utility firm failed to fulfill its obligations, according to Ria Calleja, Aboitiz Power assistant vice president for corporate branding and communication.

Aboitiz cut power to Abra on Dec. 10 over Abreco’s P20.2-million debt but reconnected service on Dec. 11 when the utility paid P4.9 million.

Calleja said Abreco missed the first three installments of its unsettled bills for Dec. 12, 13 and 14. She said Abreco had not paid its P32-million security deposit and had not processed its membership with the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market on Dec. 15, which would have allowed it access to other power sources should it again face disconnection from Aboitiz.

The blackout raised concerns over the province’s power supply for the 2013 midterm elections. Abra is listed among the 2013 electoral areas of concern because of its history of political violence.

On Wednesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it was ready to beg for consideration from Aboitiz to make sure no blackouts hit the province on election day.

Julius Torres, Comelec Cordillera director, said the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines have backup generators good for 15 hours but canvassing using computers would suffer under a power outage that could occur if Abreco fails to pay its power bills again.

“If worse comes to worst, we will plead to Aboitiz to make sure there is power in Abra for the one or two days of voting and canvassing, although we already received complaints from our field offices that the recent blackout already delayed the printing of voters’ lists,” Torres said.

He said not all election offices in Abra are equipped with generator sets.

“We are prepared [for blackouts] only for the purposes of running the PCOS machines. We will need to be concerned about the canvassing using the counting and canvassing system that would be operated on laptops. The batteries would not last longer than the PCOS machines,” he said.

In 2010, the Comelec conducted an inventory of available generators in the towns to determine where it could source power in an emergency, he said.

“If [Abreco] fails to pay its bills on the 28th of the month, service is stopped. There’s a brownout. If Abreco pays on the 28th of April, the election is safe because it is scheduled on May 13,” said Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: Abra , local government , News , Regions

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