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Plan to cut power in Albay over unpaid bills put off

By: - Correspondent / @msarguellesINQ
/ 05:20 PM January 27, 2014

Screen grab from www.nea.gov.ph

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) put off its planned disconnection of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) from the grid on Monday (Jan. 27) in response to the request of Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi, said a member of the Aleco Interim Board (IBOD).

Augusto Villalon, IBOD spokesperson, said Bishop Baylon, chair of the Aleco IBOD, wrote a letter to NGCP asking for deferment following ongoing negotiations with San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC), the new concessionaire of the cooperative.

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Baylon, in his letter, said IBOD has been trying to find ways to settle its P66-million unpaid bills to NGCP in 2013.  Under an agreement eyed with the SMEC, the P66-million bill would be assumed by the SMEC under its concession contract agreement with Aleco IBOD.  Aleco is also trying to settle another P33 million in the current billing.

Villalon, in an interview on Monday, said Aleco management has paid NGCP P6.5 million as initial payment for its current account.

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He said the P66-million bill covered the months of October to December. These accounts should have been settled by SMEC following the signing of the agreement on Oct. 29, 2013. Under the contract, SMEC would assume all outstanding accounts incurred by Aleco.

SMEC was the lone bidder of the concession agreement, which, after a referendum among consumers, allowed them to take over the operation of the cooperative for the next 25 years.

The takeover by SMEC was met with a four-month long strike by Aleco Employees Union and Aleco Multisectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSO) starting last September.

The labor strike totally paralyzed Aleco operation, seriously affecting its billing and collection system.

Villalon said the Aleco managment could have settled its account had it not been for the labor strike. SMEC did not assume management of operations of Aleco on Jan. 7 due to the labor strike. The Department of Labor and Employment assumed jurisdiction over the labor row on Jan. 13 and issued a return-to-work order to the workers.

Aleco owed its power suppliers a total of P4 billion over the past decades. The accumulated debts was due to alleged mismanagement, high system loss due to pilferage, and poor billing and collection system.

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TAGS: Albay, Albay Electric Cooperative, aleco, Electricity production and distribution, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, Negotiation, Regions, unpaid bills
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