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BULUAN, Maguindanao – The National Electrification Administration (NEA) took over Thursday the management of the power cooperative in this province amid reported arrears amounting to more than P800-million, even as Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla announced remedies aimed at freezing the debts and rehabilitating the ailing utility firm.

Though surprised about the sudden takeover of the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco) management, local stakeholders including elected officials led by Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu enthusiastically welcomed Sec. Petilla’s assurances at a meeting held here at the onset of three-day festivities marking the 41st founding anniversary celebration of the province.

“The intervening announcement of Sec. Petilla, my good friend, heightened our spirits in the current celebration of the Maguindanao anniversary celebration where we unleash revelries over the gradual evolution of our province from various challenges,” Mangudadatu told reporters after the meeting.

Sec. Petilla said the Department of Energy (DOE) will facilitate the “setting aside” momentarily of Magelco’s debts to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), pending full rehabilitation of the cooperative.

The DOE will also work out the grant of five more megawatts to Magelco’s supply capacity, which is pegged at P2.6-megawatt, he said, noting residents’ complaints that many of the province’s 26 towns have been experiencing an average of 10 to 12-hour daily brownout due to cooperative’s dismal supply and its indebtedness.

Petilla also approved in principle an instant request of Mangudadatu for the NGCP’s provision of “direct lines” to large investment firms in the province to assure stable electricity in their operations.

The meeting was held Thursday at the conference room of the governor’s office here and was attended by majority of Magelco-served towns as well as Assemblyman Khadaffie “Toy” Mangudadatu, younger brother of the governor and representing Maguindanao’s second district to the legislature of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The local officials and dozens of spectators burst into applause when Sec. Petilla also announced that he would hold a power summit in the province this year to map out remedial measures for the rehabilitation of Magelco operations.

“We talk of generalities here. We will hold a power summit here to chart with you specific (remedial) measures,” Sec. Petilla told the meeting.

Petilla accompanied NEA Administrator Edith Bueno and other power sector officials, who installed earlier Thursday Sultan Ashary Maongco as supervising office and OIC-general manager of Magelco.

Mangco made many commitments at the meeting after Assemblyman Mangdadatu demanded explanations from him about his controversial stint at general manager of the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (Lasureco), which is beset by more than P8-billion debts, according to Petilla and Administrator Bueno.

The management of Lasureco was taken over from Mangonco last August by a task force of representatives from the DOE, the Departments of Justice, and Interior and Local Government, the Mindanao Development Authority and ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman.

At Thursday’s meeting here, Maongco, who managed Lasureco from 2007 up to last August, claimed that “political” interventions caused the perceived misgivings of his former office.

Mayors of 30 of Lanao del Sur’s 39 towns had indicted Maongco for cutting power supply to their communities for almost two years starting in early 2013. (Ali G. Macabalang)

Attached photo caption:

Reassuring forum – Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla (second from right) draws spectators’ applause after announcing remedial measures to rehabilitate the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco) from heavy losses at a meeting Thursday in Buluan town. Also shown Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu (right), Electrification Administrator Edith Bueno (seated next to Petilla) and Sultan Ashary Maongco (second from left), whom Bueno installed as OIC-general manager of Magelco earlier that day. (Ali G. Macabalang)
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