Gov. Joey Salceda joins move to boycott payment to APEC
LEGAZPI CITY, -– A boycott move against the San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC) is gaining ground as its newly acquired controversial Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), now named Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC), has yet to deliver its much-vaunted stable power supply.
In the meeting of its board last week, the Albay Chamber of Commerce Inc. (ACCI) passed a resolution condemning the SMEC-owned APEC’s poor power service amid its boast of strong financial back-up.
Six months of total operational control of the APEC is enough to prove its worth as SMEC had promised, said Saturnino Velasco, ACCI president.
The resolution also urged consumers to boycott payment of electricity bills until such time that the promised sufficient power service is finally realized.
Prior to the final takeover of Aleco last January, SMEC preliminarily assumed its management for familiarization with Aleco’s problems after the San Miguel Corp.’s subsidiary was awarded as its concessionaire last year.
SMEC has taken over the total control of Aleco since January, making the cooperative the first problematic to be privatized after being pushed by the National Electrification Administration backed by Albay lawmakers and local officials.
Six months after SMEC took over APEC, however, Albay power consumers of more than 230,000 complained that the power supply had been getting worse with off-and-on power condition that has already caused huge damages to consumers’ appliances and electronics gadgets as well as to businesses.
Very recently, Albay suffered two weeks power outage when the 35-year-old 20-MVA transformer in Barangay Bitano bogged down due to old age.
To ease the uneasiness and anger of the power consumers, local officials said that in a few days APEC would be able to fix the problem as promised.
It, however, took the company about two weeks to ease the consumers’ great sufferings amid the ongoing heat wave, lamented businessman Henry Buban, an ACCI officer.
Adding insult to injury under the SMEC’s poor power supply, consumers complained of the unusual monthly billings they have been receiving — the latest of which were for the months of April and May, which have unconscionably shot up to 300 percent.
Even Salceda complained that his residential electric bill for the month of May had also shot up to 300 percent.
He has joined the move to boycott payment to APEC, however, to cover only the months of April and May.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal, one of the local officials who pushed for the Aleco privatization, said he could now feel the heat under APEC, saying his parents’ home, which usually pays an average of P10,000 monthly in electricity bills, has been billed triple for the month of May.
This, despite the alternate service of a personal generator, Rosal claimed.
Interestingly and funny, ACCI officials said a resident of Barangay Tula-Tula in Legazpi City with only three bulbs in his residence was billed by APEC the amount of Php1 million for the month of May, while a doctor at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, who usually pays an average residential monthly billing of P3,000, was also billed P300,0000 for the month of May.
In a meeting with ACCI, Allan Marchan, APEC general manager, admitted the occurrence of his company’s abnormal billing system, saying the problem would be solved soon, anyway.
Marchan said consumers need not worry as APEC will not resort to disconnections.
He, however, refused to answer how APEC will come up paying the damages on appliances that resulted from the unusual off-and-on power supply.
Indebted by almost P4 billion, the former Aleco was marred by decades-long corruption scandal while being alternately managed by its board of directors elected by the consumers and the National Electrification Administration during the past 35 years.
SMEC was among the four Aleco bidders that fought for the acquisition of Aleco for the initial 25 years’ operation with option to continue for another 25 years.
The other bidders were the Lopez group, Aboitiz group and Meralco. (PNA report by Manilyn Ugalde)