Governor Gwendolyn Garcia proposed a temporary takeover of the management and operations of the embattled Camotes Electric Cooperative (Celco) by the Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) I, II and III.
The proposal was raised during a meeting called by Garcia on Wednesday, September 2, with the power distributors and power generators for an update on Cebeco's commitment to help the Camotes Group of Islands’ lingering six to 12-hour power outages.
In the meeting, it was reported that Cebeco was able to complete the corrective measures it promised during their last meeting in August 13 in a span of two and half days.
Cebeco III general manager Virgilio Fortich said that on August 19, Cebeco I, II and III sent a team on August 19 and corrected the protection settings of Celco's power system.
By August 23, 40 linemen and engineers were sent again for the installation of the polyethylene hose for the 3-phase line structures. The installation took them only two days to finish from what was initially targeted as a four-day operation, Fortich said.
A two-way radio communication was also set up between Celco and the National Power Corporation (NPC) after earlier accusations thrown at each other for delays in responding to relayed concerns.
The last phase of its commitment will be the upgrading of Celco's power lines from a single-phase to a three-phase line that will cover an 8-kilometer stretch from Mangodlong to San Francisco town.
Fortich said the third phase will cost Cebeco P6 million.
The governor said in light of the resolution of the over three-decade power outages in the island, she asked if it was possible for Celco to give way to Cebeco in managing them.
"Can there be an agreement between the two? As I said Celco, I will not try to break you up pero pwede ba mag-agree ang duha ka coops on the management side nga Cebeco should take precedence kay gipakita man nga nasulbad nila ang problema without even regard nga makabawi ba ni sila or di. Pero karon this is serious money, it's P6 million. They're also accountable to their own clients here in the Province of Cebu," Garcia said.
"Mas maayo tingali tagaan nato’g more protection ang Cebeco, not for them, but for the members of Cebeco," she said, while pointing out Cebeco’s duty to its own constituents in the mainland.
“So unsaon man ni pagproteher kuno ang inyong position kun dunay mangutana nga konsumidor dinhi sa probinsya na ngano nag-invest man mo didto sa Celco nga Cebeco man mo, unsa ninyo pagseguro nga amo man na diha bayad sa among konsumo,” the governor asked.
She emphasized that the change in Camotes’ power situation that has started to happen must be maintained and sustained.
"Kaning ako I'm presenting this to the (Celco) Board (of Directors) kay I really wish to see change here and change has started but we have to maintain or sustain it and whether we like it or not at this point of time, bag-o lang mo gitudloan paglakaw, basin mangapandol na sad mo," she said.
Garcia added that it will be beneficial for Celco to learn and be mentored by Cebeco's expertise in managing an electric cooperative.
"To be honest about it, you are really in bad shape. You've been in a downward trend for the last 30 years (or so), so the only solution is we need experts. Atong paningkamotan nga mo-improve mo or else magbalik-balik ning problemaha," she told the power provider.
She is also thinking that Cebeco should be given a hand, not just in the management, but also in the financial aspect of the operations of the power utility firm.
"Kinahanglan unta ang presence sa Cebeco will continue not just sa operations but in the handling of the finances," Garcia said.
Celco's president of the Board of Directors (BOD) Dave Junel Tampos for his part said they are agreeable to the governor's proposal if only to ensure that upgrading of its facilities will be guaranteed "ug duna pud assurance nga makabayad mi.”
Provincial Legal Office Chief Atty. Donato Villa said in a separate interview that he will draft a memorandum of agreement stipulating the proposal of the governor which will be sent to all parties involved, for additional comments.
He will also look into the role of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) on the matter but is hopeful that since the P6 million that Cebeco will spend for the upgrading will be considered a loan, the government-owned and controlled corporation will not disagree with the proposal.
"With regards sa P6 million nga ilahang igawas para lang maluwas ang Celco kana lahi na gyud na siya, bayran man gyud na nila pero depende na unsa ma-agree nila," Villa said.
"Kana si NEA, ako pa na i-check, as far I know if both parties agree kay mahulog man na nga loan, gigasto man na sa Cebeco para sa Celco so naa gyud say ang Cebeco unsaon nga mabayran siyag balik. So, if they agree with that, I don't think NEA would object to that kay anyway wa may tangtangon, naa raman gihapon sila," he further explained.
Fortich, for his part, said he will still refer the governor's proposal to Cebeco's BOD.
"Mao nay sugyot ni Gov nga duna puy magbalantay or mo-co-manage, mo-oversight depende sa arrangement but I have to refer that first to the BOD kay duna man tay junta direktiba nga mo decide when it comes ingon ana. But mao na, posible kay ang Cebeco di pud gusto masayang ba, but I'm not saying ha nga mao nana ang set up," he clarified.
"There are actually three phases of our commitment and we are already in the third phase," Fortich said.
Cebeco I, II and III will be sending a new team to Camotes Islands once the materials for the line upgrading will arrive. The team is seen to include Bohol 1 and Bohol 2 electric coops, Negros 1 and 2 and possibly Bantayan Electric Cooperative Inc.
The goal is to hasten the upgrading, which according to Fortich will be done in a week’s time instead of two because of the additional personnel that will help do the process.
"Ang ato gitan-aw man ani nga imbes mahimo nato sulod sa duha ka semana himoon nato nga mahuman kini sa usa ka semana," Fortich said.
Cebeco will also be providing training for all Celco personnel starting from the top and middle management as part of their commitment.
Tudela Mayor Greman “Jojo” Solante expressed his gratitude to the competence of Cebeco in addressing the more than three-decade problem in the islands.
“The meeting was very fruitful because ang report, ug mao poy among experience, lesser na ang brownout because of the intervention of Cebeco 1, 2 and 3,” he said.
“Out of 210 days, 406 power failures nasulbad sa Cebeco in 2 and a half days, dako kaayo ang kausaban nakita ang competence sa Cebeco pag-address sa problema. Kun nahitabo ni long before di mi mo-suffer og 12 ka oras nga brownout,” he said.
He said he will also support the governor’s move saying “it’s about time,” alluding to Celco’s “incompetence” in resolving the problem.
“Kinahanglan manginlabot na ang Cebeco sa management if only to give justice sa Cebeco consumers nga ni invest og P6 million because way garantiya nga after this investment sa Cebeco unsa na pud mahitabo because I would say sa incompetence sa management sa Celco. Ako na barugan nga word, in just 2 months, 2 kabuok lineman namatay, nakuryentehan. So, it’s about time, tagaan na pud nato og hustisya in fairness to everybody,” he said.
“So again, ako, and I would like to believe my co-mayors sa Camotes Islands will support the move of the governor nga motudlo, motabang ang Cebeco dili lang sa investment and financial but ngadto sa basic operation, financial and everything until such time nga makita nila na makabarog na then they (Celco) will go back,” he said. (Vanessa L. Almeda)