Albay governor Joey Sarte Salceda is at his best when speaking in behalf of his provincial constituents. This time, he was thinking aloud about the disparity and inconvenience Albayanos receive when it comes to electricity service and pricing.
He was lamenting that provinces, cities and consumers of electric cooperatives outside the Bicol region are enjoying cheap and clean energy at the expense of Bicolanos.
The 330 megawatt Tiwi geothermal plant, now reduced to 160MW production, in Albay is producing electricity being operated by the private firm and power broker Aboitiz Power corporation.
Aboitiz in turn channels the electricity to outside areas including Pampanga and the city of San Fernando. Electricity generated by Tiwi is sold by Aboitiz to Pampanga at a cheaper price hence consumers in that area pay much cheaper for their consumption than their counterpart in Bicol.
Meanwhile, the province’s Albay Electric cooperative is saddled with P982 million outstanding electric bill. Also, the problem was compounded with more debts from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities corporation (PSALM) of P1.7 billion and the National Electrification Administration of P180 millions more.
These present predicament of Aleco began when the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) under the Philippine Electricity Market corporation started charging higher rates to the Bicol cooperative in comparison with similar cooperatives outside the region.
Aleco is buying the electricity produced by Tiwi Geothermal at a higher price than what other coops pay!
Salceda expressed dismay that the Tiwi resources are continuously depleting without any positive (economic) return to the province. Instead, the geothermal plant has also edged out the operation of the steam baths around Tiwi.
The plant gained exclusive access to the steam resources now being siphoned by Tiwi Geothermal. The steam baths which has become popular to tourists and locals are now out of business. This is one of the negative effect brought upon the local government with the nationalization of all geothermal fields in the country.
Next year, the Bacon-Manito geothermal plant located between the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon will start its production of 240 megawatt energy.
The combined output of Tiwi and Bacon-Manito geothermal plants are over and above the energy requirements of the adjacent four Bicol peninsular provinces.
The national government is looking forward at channeling the electricity to feed the hungry residential, commercial and industrial consumers, located outside and out of reach of the Bicol area.
With this scenario the hapless Bicolanos can not expect the price of electricity in their backyard will ever go down. Dismally and financially painful on the local cooperatives and their consumers. Ironic, indeed.