Power for polls sought in dam town

Bet for mayor, Comelec, DOE seek return of electricity for elections

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CABANATUAN CITY—The town hosting the Pantabangan Dam has suffered from blackout since March 7, prompting a candidate, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to request a power company to restore power at least for the duration of the May 13 midterm elections.

The power cutoff in Pantabangan town was its third and longest power disconnection yet due to unpaid debts.

But the Comelec urged First Gen Hydro Power Corp. to reconnect nine villages of Pantabangan on May 6 when the Comelec tests the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Lawyer Lydia Pangilinan, Nueva Ecija election supervisor, said the Comelec had asked the DOE to make sure that Pantabangan has electricity a week before and a week after the May 13 elections.

“We are certain that [First Gen] will respond positively to this request. Otherwise, we may be compelled to use the right of the state to do what is necessary to carry out an important obligation for the good of the public,” she said. “We already made contingency measures to ensure that, like the rest of the province, Pantabangan will be using the PCOS machines on May 13.”

In April, mayoralty candidate Lucio Uera wrote First Gen to restore the town’s electricity to ensure an election “free from violence, cheating and technical foul-ups.” Pantabangan has 18,590 registered voters.

The multisectoral leaders of Pantabangan also plan to seek the help of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. “We have high hopes that he will help us solve this scourge that befell us,” said Bienvenido Reyes, chair of  La Solidaridad Movement.

“We have been without electricity since last March 7. We also don’t have water supply because our pumps here are run by electricity,” he said.

He said residents would ask Roxas to address evidence of fiscal mismanagement that was uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2009 report. One of the irregularities cited by COA was the existence of municipal “ghost employees.”

Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. , in an earlier statement, said he would answer the charges against him and his administration in a proper forum.

Pangilinan said they would be using generator sets provided by First Gen in schools in Pantabangan that were affected by the power cutoff.

First Gen, a subsidiary of the Lopez Group of Companies, supplies electricity to the Pantabangan Municipal Electric Services (Pames), which serves nine of Pantabangan’s 14 barangays. Three other villages in Alfonso Castañeda town in Nueva Vizcaya are served by Pames, which is operated by the municipal government.

The nine Pantabangan villages consume the equivalent of

P1.7 million of electricity each month that has remained unpaid.

First Gen first cut power supply in July 2012 due to unpaid power bills amounting to P53 million.

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