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Meralco, SMC eye Albay power co-op

Disconnection due to unpaid bills brings mounting losses to businesses

By , Inquirer Southern Luzon Riza T. Olchondra in Manila

A RESIDENT of Ligao, Albay province, charges his cell phone at the cell site of telecoms firm Smart Communication Inc., which made available its generators for residents to charge their phones. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

LEGAZPI CITY—The business community in Albay expressed dismay on Wednesday over the disconnection of electricity by the National Grid of the Philippines (NGCP) in the entire province of Albay.

Losses were initially placed at P55 million in the last 24 hours alone, a member of the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said Wednesday.

“We can just imagine how much losses a business may incur if the power blackout continues for weeks,” said Marcial Tuanqui, a member and past president of ACCI, in a phone interview.

He said the P55 million estimate by ACCI represented mainly the spending prompted by sudden expenses for fuel to operate generator sets to keep businesses running.

Tuanqui said the businesses in Albay went practically on a standstill, saying the power loss is wasting food kept in freezers in small groceries, stores and restaurants.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla told reporters in Manila that four companies,

including the Meralco group and San Miguel Corp., are interested in participating in a rehabilitation plan for the debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Aleco).

Petilla said a rehabilitation plan for Aleco may be out in September. He said, however, that Aleco has to start paying its debts, which have reached at least P4 billion, in the meantime.

Tuanqui, an ACCI member, said investment in Albay is expected to suffer a beating. “This serves as a wake up call for all of us,” he said.

Some residents of Albay, who still have access to power and Internet through generators, turned to social networking site Facebook to express rage.

One post said “it’s more FAN in Albay.” Another said “Albay, longest Earth Hour in history.”

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, in his Facebook account, shared a text message from Petilla saying the energy secretary has

ordered the reconnection of the Albay grid after 100 heavy power users that have not been paying their bills are permanently disconnected from the grid.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, in an interview, said he has requested Petilla to make available a “soft loan” of P36 million to help pay Aleco’s bill for June worth P56 million.

Rosal said in his city alone, businessmen expect to lose at least P10 million a day.

Lawyer Veronica Briones, Aleco project supervisor, said the cooperative has to raise some P39 million more to pay for its June bills.

But aside from the June bills, she said Aleco owes up to P4 billion in debts to power suppliers.

Rodrigo Aguilar, assistant trade regional director, said prices and supply of basic and prime commodities remained stable.

Aguilar, however, noted a spike in the sale of candles and kerosene. He said there was no panic buying.

The Department of Education suspended all night classes in Albay.

Insp. Arthur Gomez, Albay police spokesperson, said police are on heightened alert.

The disconnection affected at least 160,000 households in the province.

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Tags: Albay power outage , News , Regions , unpaid bills

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