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LASURECO stakeholders seek 35 MW power supply for Ramadhan

Sittie Ayeesha Dicali

Marawi City

After a clamor that has begun from discussions via two-way radio forums, e.g. Pilandok, A
yob Khan “Boses ng Masa” Saripada organized a meeting attended by representatives of different sectors who are stakeholders of LASURECO including media practitioners from Lanao del Sur and Iligan City to confer with the Task Force Lasureco about the long-standing issues and problems concerning LASURECO as well as the urgent demand of returning the power supply from a meagre 7 megawatts to 35 megawatts. The meeting took place last June 9, 2015 at the LASURECO Grounds, Maliwanag, Brgy. Gadongan, Marawi City.

General Manager Matanog “Diego” Mapandi presented to the group a Powerpoint presentation to give an overview of the problem. The total franchise area of LASURECO, which includes Marawi City, 37 municipalities in Lanao del Sur and 3 municipalities in Lanao del Norte; 18 municipalities are still not powered. It has a total demand up to 35 megawatts. When the Task Force LASURECO took over last August 2014, it had 14 MW power provision that was reduced gradually because of the simple fact that the cooperative has not been paying. It was reduced to 7 MW, one fifth of the demand.

The Task Force already issued a resolution asking for the restoration of the 35 MW power supply and even briefed and asked the help of the LGUs and the provincial government to help out. The job is too weighty to be shouldered by the Task Force alone. And thus, they asked the stakeholders to lend a hand as well.

The Problem

The GM had a talk with an authority that he refused to name about the power crisis in Lanao del Sur who said, “Asec. I cannot tolerate this anymore not in 3, 5 months. We have to put an end to this we have to finish the job of the task force. Otherwise, the only way is TY (cut off LASURECO).”

On average the power purchased from PSALM is at the cost of 33 million pesos every month however LASURECO pays only 1 million. So that means every month, it has an added debt of 32 million, just on power cost. NGCP also services the franchise area which costs 11 million pesos per month. The operating cost of LASURECO alone is at 12 million up to 14 million.

Why we cannot pay?

“Why we cannot pay? Because our average collection every month is 12 million,” explained GM Mapandi.

Thus, LASURECO incurs a debt of 600 million every year. This, said Mapandi, is the reason why during the six years of service of the previous General Manager Engr. Ashary Maongco, the debt has bloated from 2 billion pesos to 8 billion pesos.

The statement was also in defense of GM Mapandi himself as to why during his term, LASURECO now has debt of 9 billion pesos—half of that, according to Sec. Petilla is coming from interest.

“Is there a way to pay?” asked Mapandi to himself. “No way,” he replied to his own question.

Consumers still refuse to pay

During the open forum, consumers forwarded to Task Force LASURECO the reason why many consumers still refuse to pay. There were three major reasons that the consumers have identified.

First is loss of trust in LASURECO. After being plagued with issues of corruption, many consumers find it pointless to pay when they doubt that the collection actually reaches the management. Many consumers feel that if the same employees sit in the LASURECO office, the same employees who have been there from the time the problems began, then the consumers will not have trust in whoever is designated as managers.

“Giya madakel taw na asar a mailay niyan so sarig na they will cooperate. Sa kiada o sarig na atawa ari e pembethangen a pembayad a katawan iyan a mayad na miyada. (If the people will see trust, then they will cooperate. When trust was lost, only a fool will pay knowing that when he pays, the money is lost.),” said a Pilandok representative.

The TFL acknowledges that indeed there is corruption within LASURECO, however given the culture of the people, it is difficult to point persons and remove them from service without due process. LASURECO is already plagued by separation pays and claims by former employees that they won in court.

Second reason is that there is a so-called LASURECO 2, a group that illegally taps power and reconnects those who are cut due to inability to pay. Marawi City has an estimate of 20,000 households. Only 13,500 have legal connection, half of which are not good payers. The remaining 7,000 are connected illegally without registration and meters. They contribute to the huge system loss.

Third reason is the inefficiency on the part of LASURECO. There is an allegation that many of the newly installed meters are defective. Many consumers experienced a significant increase in their bill upon the installation of the new meters.

Lastly, many consumers feel entitled to not pay at all because the power is coming from hydroelectric plants powered by Lake Lanao. Moreover, it is unacceptable to them that Lake Lanao powers more than half of Mindanao yet they are serviced poorly. Some even feel that they are entitled to receive benefits.

Resolution

The dialogue between the stakeholders and the Task Force LASURECO yielded signing of a petition addressed to DOE Sec. Carlos Petilla; Emmanuel R. Ledesma, PSALM President; Ma. Lourdes Sta. Rita, NPC President; and Mr. Henry Sy, NGCP President. The stakeholders request the NPC and the NGCP to restore the power supply to LASURECO to 35 MW and to rationalize a just and equitable distribution of electricity for all electric cooperatives in Mindanao based on the prorated method whereby power reduction shall be based on the actual peak load of each electric cooperative or the contracted supply of energy.

Moreover, they request PSALM and NGCP to furnish LASURECO with the record of the actual power reduction of each electric cooperative based on the prorated method according to the contracted supply of energy or the peak consumption of each electric cooperative.

Task Force Timeline

When Task Force LASURECO assumed management of LASURECO last August 2014, the timeline given to them extends only until December 2014. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the timeline has been further extended to August 2015. TFL is not a regular management, it is a crisis management.

TFL was mandated by the Department of energy to do three things: (1) install 40,000 meters, sanitize the metering system, and elect a board of directors that will elect the general manager at the end of the timeline of TFL.

As of June, 2015, TFL has installed 13,000 meters around Lanao del Sur. It has employed 330 additional men to speed up the installation of meters.

Hopes and Pleas

During the meeting, many pleas have been raised. Pascan sa Onayan, representing the Provincial Government appealed to the task force to give equal prioritization to the 2nd district. It is known that most of the municipalities in the 2nd district have no electricity still. .

Meno Manabilang, MNLF Central Committee member, pleads for the condonation of the debt because if the stakeholders shoulder the 9 billion, people will get discouraged. If possible, everyone in Lanao will petition, he added. He asked GM Mapandi to relay his message to the President Noynoy Aquino himself that LASURECO be supplied sufficient power even for the duration of Ramadhan only if solving the bigger problem is too much to ask.

GM Mapandi hopes that with the installation of 40,000 meters, the collection will be revived and bring in sufficient amount to show the DOE and the national government that LASURECO can be a viable cooperative, that it does not need to be privatized, and hopefully the debt be condoned through passage of law by our legislators. The New Ranao Star

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