‘EXPECT THE WORST’
This is a normal scene at the rotunda near the Atrium and the capitol. But this will change when the Iloilo City plunges into darkness.
ILOILO CITY BRACES FOR BLACKOUT
By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Jun Ariolo N. Aguirre
HOW prepared are local government authorities and law enforcement agencies in case Panay Power Corporation (PPC) runs out of bunker fuel and is forced to shut down its 72-MW facility at Lapaz district resulting to a citywide blackout?
With only a day left before PPC tanks get dry, City Hall and police officials are making all necessary preparations for the power shutdown even as Mayor Jerry Treñas tries to move heaven and earth to save the city from the looming blackout.
“The problem on power supply is real. It is really there,” Treñas stressed after meeting with PPC and Panay Electric Company (Peco) officials.
Treñas said fluctuating prices of oil in the world market and the reduction of Peco’s rates as ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission have affected PPC’s operations.
Due to the ERC ruling, Treñas said Peco has failed to pay its financial obligations to PPC causing the latter to default on its payments with its fuel supplier.
Treñas said PPC has already lost more than P360million computed from the time PECO implemented the ERC- ordered rate cut three months ago.
Quoting PPC, Treñas said Shell, the fuel supplier, will not deliver to PPC unless its outstanding account is paid.
Treñas said he has brought the problem to the attention of Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael Lotilla who is coming today to the city.
“The ERC is looking into the problem to ensure that there will be no disruption of electricity in the city. We are trying to find solutions since Peco can’t settle its dues to PPC,” Treñas said.
In his earlier talk with ERC chairman Rodolfo Albano, the mayor said the energy regulatory body may issue a provisional authority for Peco to charge a higher amount in order to cover the true cost of power generation.
“The ERC order on said rate may come out soon. We have assurance from the national government particularly President Gloria Arroyo,” Treñas said.
The mayor said he will be meeting with the City Council, Crisis Management Center and the police to formulate contingency measures in case of a blackout.
Treñas added that business transactions in both government and private offices will be adversely affected by the blackouts.
“Even if we have generator sets, these can’t supply continuous power. The hospitals and hotels among other businesses will be using generators but it will be costly and limited,” Treñas said.
He likewise said the National Power Corporation cannot meet Iloilo City’s 72-MW power demand.
“We are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. This must be resolved considering its great impact on us,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 has its hands full as it prepares not only for the looming blackout in Iloilo City but also for other concerns during the Christmas season.
Chief Supt. Doroteo Reyes, PRO-6 regional director, said they will field their intelligence operatives to monitor the peace and order situation in the city not only for the power outage but also for terrorist threats.
Reyes said he will also alert the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council and the Office of Civil Defense if the ERC fails to come up with a solution for PPC’s financial woes today.
Reyes said they will be watching for looters and other petty criminals who might take advantage of the blackout.
Kagawad Eduardo Peñaredondo said he has received information that several city residents will vandalize Peco’s properties or may steal Peco’s high tension wire and other equipment in the event of a power shutdown.
“There will be mayhem all around if there is blackout. We must prepare now,” Peñaredondo said.
Iloilo City Police director Norlito Bautista said all police precincts around the city have been alerted as regards the blackout scenario.
“We are already on alert so there is no problem about our preparation,” Bautista said. (Published in The Guardian, November 14, 2005 issue.)
TAKEOVER PECO, NOT PPC
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
TO PREVENT Iloilo City from plunging into darkness, the government can take control of Panay Electric Company (Peco) instead of Panay Power Corporation (PPC) which is set to shut down its 72-MW facility at Barangay Ingore, LaPaz.
This was the immediate solution proposed by Mayor Jerry Treñas just in case the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) fails to come up with a win-win solution to the financial fray between Peco and PPC.
Earlier, Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez wrote President Arroyo to take over PPC to avert a blackout in the city.
During his meeting with PPC and Peco officials at the City Hall yesterday, Treñas said it would be hard for the national government to seize control of PPC which is an independent power producer owned by multinational corporation Mirant Global Corporation.
Instead, the government has an easier option in taking over the management and control of Peco, which is a public utility, to ensure continuous supply of power to Iloilo City, Treñas said.
Treñas explained that under the law, the government can always recall Peco’s franchise in case of emergencies just like the looming blackout brought about by PPC’s financial problems.
The mayor was also apprehensive of the bad impression that will be created by PPC’s takeover to the international and national business communities.
Apparently, Treñas’s proposal will compel President Arroyo to subsidize a government-controlled Peco so it can pay its arrears to the power producer.
Fresh from his trip abroad, Treñas “burned the lines” to convince the ERC and even Malacañang to help avert the blackout.
As of yesterday, the ERC has yet to issue any provisional authority to Peco which is expected to satisfy its debts to PPC.
ERC Chairman Rodolfo Albano Jr. last week said they will order Peco to pay PPC the actual cost of power without charging the amount to the consumers.
Albano said they are still deliberating on the provisions of the order as Peco is opposing their proposal.
Engr. Adrian Moncada, PPC assistant vice president, said ERC’s proposed solution has a loophole.
“If the ERC will compel Peco to pay us the real cost of power but what it actually charges the consumers is lower, who will pay the balance?” Moncada said.
Treñas was not in favor of the said move saying it would result to increase in power rates for the consumers.
Kagawad Eduardo Peñaredondo likened the city’s situation to a losing game of chess.
“We are in a checkmate situation now. We have nowhere to go. If the PPC stops its operation, we cannot rely on the National Power Corporation since it has not enough power supply. Maybe Napocor can spare us 10MW but that would only be enough for the three big malls in the city,” Peñaredondo said.
Peñaredondo said the blackout will be disastrous to the city’s economy and peace and order to Iloilo City.
“We will go back to the dark ages if we lose power. Mayor Treñas will meet with the crisis management committee to put in place the necessary contingency plan in case of a blackout,” Peñaredondo said.
However, Governor Niel Tupas no amount of contingency plan will help Iloilo City against the blackout.
“We will be helpless. If we lose our power supply, what can we do,” Tupas said.
Still, Tupas said they are hoping that the ERC will exert all its effort to prevent the city from plunging into darkness. (Published in The Guardian, December 13, 2005 issue)
IBC: ERC must solve power crisis
By Jeehan V. Fernandez
ALARMED by the looming blackout in Iloilo City, businessmen have urged the government to address the power concern which could cause major trouble on the local economy.
The Iloilo Business Club (IBC) yesterday issued the statement following pronouncements of Panay Power Corporation (PPC) that it will shut down its facility at Barangay Ingore, LaPaz if Panay Electric Company (Peco) does not pay the actual price of power.
“We urgently request the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) through its chairman Rodolfo Albano to arbitrate and come up with a viable interim and long term solutions acceptable to all stakeholders and always with the interest of the general public as the primordial consideration,” stressed Antonio S. Jon, IBC president.
Last week, Albano said the ERC will grant a provisional authority to Peco to pay its financial dues to PPC.
Likewise, the business sector asked PPC and Peco to deal properly with their problems.
“We appeal to both Panay Power Corporation and Panay Electric Company to exercise social responsibility over the situation and not allow Iloilo City to suffer the consequences of a blackout,” Jon said.
“We hope they will uphold their mandate to provide reliable and reasonably-priced electricity to the community,” Jon pointed out.
“The Iloilo Business Club is very much concerned with the obvious and logical consequence of a citywide blackout that could bring unimaginable and indescribable chaos and turmoil to the public,” he explained.
“Power is one of the biggest components for the economy’s growth thus we are the most concerned than any other sector. It would be disastrous and detrimental if we have no electricity to run our businesses,” Jon clarified.
Meanwhile, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas had talked over the phone with Albano yesterday regarding the ERC stand on the power issue.
“It is my hope that the ERC will issue a provisional authority to Peco. The ERC order may come out soon,” Treñas told reporters.
Treñas also said the city government has no options available but it would be the National Power Corporation (NPC) and Department of Energy (DOE) that will address the power troubles.
“We have to talk to higher authorities to come up with solutions. But before the government come in, solutions can be thrived at the local level. If not, the government will be there to ensure there is continuous power supply,” the mayor said. (Published in The Guardian, December 13, 2005 issue)
Raul Sr. mulls damage suit vs Orleans
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
IT’S payback time for Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.
This, after the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) junked the disbarment case filed by Liga ng mga Barangay-Iloilo City Chapter president Marietta Orleans against Gonzalez.
Orleans, with her legal counsel Bonifacio Alentajan, sought to strip Gonzalez of his license to practice law with the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) at the height of the power struggle within the Liga last year.
Orleans based her case on Gonzalez’s purported illicit love affair with a Sangguniang Kabataan chairman in Iloilo City.
An earlier disbarment case was also filed against Gonzalez for his involvement in the leadership squabble in the Liga but it was already dismissed by the IBP in August.
In the latest complaint, the CBD’s investigating commissioner Lydia Navarro found no merit in Orleans’s complaint.
In the resolution for CBD Case No. 04-1276, Navarro said “it is apparent that complainant is just harassing the respondent.”
“From the facts obtained, it is evident that complainant meant to harass the respondent at all cost, even to the extent of violating the rule on forum shopping for having instituted the same course of action with the same set of witnesses and affidavits twice before the IBP and the Ombudsman,” Navarro said.
The IBP board of governors has already adopted Navarro’s resolution which in turn will be approved by the Supreme Court.
Atty. Eldrid Antiquera, Gonzalez’s counsel, said they will file counter charges against Orleans and Alentajan “for besmirching Secretary Gonzalez’s name.”
“We will file a substantial damage suit against Orleans and Alentajan. We are just waiting for the dismissal to become final by virtue of Supreme Court’s approval,” Antiquera said.
Alentajan said they can still appeal the case even as he accused Gonzalez of using his position to influence the IBP decision.
But Antiquera denied Alentajan’s accusation saying the IBP has been the one of the oppositors to Gonzalez’s appointment as Secretary of Justice.
The rift between Gonzalez and Orleans began in the 2004 elections when the latter supported former Iloilo City mayor Mansueto Malabor who ran as congressman opposite Raul Gonzalez Jr. (Published in The Guardian, December 12, 2005)