BY GERRY LEE GORIT
CAMIGUIN – Efforts are now being planned up to address the growing concerns of the public over the power situation here as financial obligations of the island-province’s sole power utility to its creditors has soared to almost P1 billion pesos over the years.
In a power summit conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) held here March 3, it was reported that the Camiguin Electric Cooperative’s (CAMELCO) unpaid debts to power producers soared from P47 million in 2018 to P295 million in 2021, not counting the P426 million loans it incurred for many years.
Based on House Committee Report 1333 filed by Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo, the power summit focused on resolving key issues associated CAMELCO such as high power rates due to over-contracting, ballooning debts and financial losses, and its poor and unreliable service to consumers.
Referencing R.A. 9136 or ‘The Department of Energy Act of 1992’ and other relevant government issuances, a formal performance assessment on the cooperative’s functional aspects from 2019 to 2020 was done by the DOE through the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau (DOE-EPIMB).
It was observed that power outages on the island were mostly due to trees and vegetation.
CAMELCO has also not established protocols for power outages and load dropping in accordance with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
That said, CAMELCO was advised to increase efforts to minimize outages, develop a preventive maintenance plan, and a load dropping protocol.
DOE-EPIMB Division Chief Luningning G. Baltazar said CAMELCO must also come up with an enhanced Distribution Development Plan that incorporates system enhancements and capital expenditure requirements.
She added that the goal of CAMELCO’S development plan should be to continuously provide secure, sufficient, reliable and reasonably-priced electricity to its consumers.
For its information technology aspect, the DOE suggests CAMELCO to pursue ISO certification and consider data centralization, capacity building, and eventual turn-over of IT systems management. At present, CAMELCO’s non-centralized IT system focuses only on meter reading, billing, and collection under contract.
CAMELCO also operates a diesel plant to provide power on the island. When asked about the increase in electricity costs in the past month, CAMELCO Acting General Manager Rovir Ian M. Golosino said this is due to the increase in fuel prices felt across the country.
The reason for this is the rising cost of fuel, which also affects the cost of operating our diesel plant. The impact is mostly felt in the increase of our generation cost,” Golosino said.
He adds that other electric cooperatives in Mindanao and in the country are also faced with the same difficulty.
In response to the suggestions offered by the DOE, Golosino said CAMELCO will be integrating an automatic voltage regulator in its systems to address and prevent further system losses and provide reliable power.