Dads say deal letting firm run Pantabangan power shady

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CABANATUAN CITY—Six of the 10 councilors of Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, have questioned what they described as a takeover of the Pantabangan Municipal Electric System (Pames) by a private firm.

“We have not been informed about the privatization of Pames,” Councilor Teodora Agustin said. “We were unaware that a Metro Manila firm was already running the affairs of our electric system.”

Agustin said she, the five other councilors and other residents in Pantabangan were surprised when they received billing statements from the Kaltimex Energy Philippines Inc. for their electric consumption recently.

“We have not approved anything about the supposed privatization of our electric system. As it is a town-government supervised system, we are its members of the board of directors and we have not acted or ratified anything new about it,” Agustin said.

But Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. said Kaltimex has not bought Pames, a local government-owned facility that has been distributing electricity to the town a decade before the national government submerged it in 1973 to give way to a lake that feeds the Pantabangan Dam.

Aside from being major sources of irrigation and power, the lake and dam also control floods in central and northern Luzon.

Borja said what Pames has sealed with Kaltimex is a 25-year contract that authorized the latter to rehabilitate Pames on a P100-million budget.

The contract, he said, also tasked Kaltimex with overseeing consumer payments to Pames and paying debts and obligations to the First Gen Hydro Power Corp. and other power generators.

Borja said the town council, through a resolution, authorized him to negotiate with Kaltimex. The contract was effective

Nov. 26 last year, he said.

“We are not privatizing Pames,” Borja clarified, denying reports that he and his son, Vice Mayor Romeo Borja Jr., are shareholders of Kaltimex.

But Agustin said: “We heard that [Mayor] Borja and Kaltimex entered into a memorandum of agreement for the operation by this firm of our electric system. But we have not ratified the agreement so it is not valid.”

Agustin said she and her five colleagues, who belong to the opposition in their town, had asked the town council chair, Vice Mayor Borja Jr., to include the Pames privatization in their sessions’ agenda but the vice mayor and the other councilors had avoided the issue.

Civic leaders in Pantabangan are also protesting the alleged illegal takeover of the debt-ridden Pames.

Bienvenido Reyes, one of the civic leaders, said the consumers did not get letters informing them about the new Pames management.

In a letter to the Borjas on Jan. 3, the civic leaders inquired about the true state of Pames and the role of Kaltimex.

Borja said he has not replied to the letter, noting that the signatories opposed his bid to revive Pames through a loan.

Reyes and his colleagues said Pames’ financial problem is one of the signs that the local government is in serious financial trouble as the Commission on Audit had shown in audits since 2009. Anselmo Roque and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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