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Maguindanao power co-op saddled with P800-M debts

/ 01:25 AM February 14, 2014

COTABATO CITY—A power utility firm in Maguindanao province needs immediate resuscitation after having accumulated close to P800 million in debts with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) since 2005.

Edna Lidasan, general manager of Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco), said collectibles from delinquent customers, reaching P786 million, were compounded by rampant cases of illegal electrical connections, resulting in a 46-percent system loss.

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Because of the unpaid bills to the Psalm, a government agency managing power plants that belong to the National Power Corp. that have not been privatized yet, the Psalm reduced the amount of power that it supplies Magelco from 10 megawatts to 2.9 megawatts starting on Jan. 30.

“Thus, the long, frequent brownouts,” said Lidasan.

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While saying she just inherited the problem, Lidasan appealed for cooperation to bring back normalcy in power distribution. She said the problem of poor collection was a result of poverty and peace and order issues.

Lidasan said some areas in Maguindanao were experiencing outages of eight to 12 hours a day, appealing for sobriety among consumers who have arrears.

Maj. Dante Gania, of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said an explosion at a transmission tower in Sultan Kudarat town on Saturday could have been perpetrated by disgruntled Magelco concessionaires.

Lidasan said that out of the P786 million that Magelco owes the Psalm, P9 million to P10 million were unpaid electric bills of local government units (LGUs).

She declined to identify the delinquent LGUs but announced that effective this month, all Magelco clients with three months of unpaid bills would have their electric connections cut.

She also warned persons engaged in illegal wire-tapping and electric connection of prosecution and jail terms.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has joined Magelco’s call for all delinquent customers, especially LGUs, to pay up.

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“Why can’t the LGU settle light or water bills when this is incorporated in their respective MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenditures)?” Mangudadatu said. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

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