Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Ex-seaman goes on shooting spree at Jaro

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOMICIDE charges are up against a trigger-happy ex-seaman from Jaro, Iloilo City who allegedly shot a 25-year-old-lad Saturday evening.
After a day of negotiations, Danilo Ventura, 60, of Barangay Cubay, Jaro surrendered to Chief Insp. Kashmir Disomangcop, Jaro police chief, Sunday.
Ventura is the suspect in the shooting to death of Vergil Hernandez of Sitio Paraiso, Barangay Cubay 10:30pm Saturday.
Before Hernandez’s death, two other men accused Ventura of shooting them.
SPO1 Jose Barce, investigator assigned to the case, said the Venturas called up the police station 10:45pm Saturday informing them of a break-in at the said house.
When the Jaro police arrived, Danilo’s son Danzel said a person was lying at the back portion of their compound.
Upon closer inspection, Barce said they saw the bloodied Hernandez lying on his face.
The police rushed the victim to the West Visayas State University Medical Center but he was declared dead on arrival.
Attending doctors said Hernandez succumbed to a gunshot wound on the nape.
Scene of the crime operatives recovered inside the Ventura compound three empty caliber 45 shells and a stereo cassette (Makamuchi brand). Outside of the residence near the area where Hernandez’s body was found, investigators retrieved an empty shell of the same caliber and an oven toaster.
During the initial investigations, Ventura blamed Hernandez for trying to steal from his house.
The suspect admitted at first that he shot the victim only to retract later and blamed an unidentified househelp for the crime. But on Sunday, Ventura eventually turned himself to the police and admitted the shooting.
Ventura refused to be interviewed yesterday inside the Jaro PNP lockup cell.
Ventura’s neighbors have always been wary over passing by the back portion of the latter’s property lest they be suspected as burglars and get shot.
Hernandez’s family denied that Vergil was a robber. His mother said she last saw her son alive when he played basketball with the barangay team.
At around 9pm, the victim went home ahead of the team. His team jokingly warned him against passing by the Venturas or he will be shot.
Prior to Vergil’s shooting, two more lads, Kenneth Davila, 20, and Joemarie Corsino, 23, also of Barangay Cubay claimed they were shot at while passing the Ventura residence. Luckily for the two, the assailant missed his aim.
Davila said he warned Corsino not to pass by the area but the latter insisted to take the shorter way via the former seaman’s house.
Cubay residents said Ventura is suffering from nervous breakdown which might be the reason for his alleged shooting spree.
The Venturas said they only use their gun to scare burglars who want to break into their home.
“There were times when some of our naughty neighbors would stone our roof as if taunting us,” said a family member who refused to be named.
The suspect’s family also denied that Danilo was suffering nervous breakdown. “It’s his wife, not him.”

‘Power woes will scare investors’

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

Lack of sustainable source of energy will affect efforts to invite investors to the city and province of Iloilo.
This was the apprehension of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas yesterday as regards the lack of a baseload plant which will supply electrical power to the city.
Treñas said the city government will have a hard time wooing investors if the inadequate power supply is not addressed immediately.
“I am worried with the city’s growth since power is very important in running the economy,” Treñas told reporters yesterday.
The mayor said two major call centers are planning to come in to city but he fears these ventures will be discouraged by the high price of power and lack of a reliable energy source.
But Treñas said Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael Lotilla assured to address the local power supply dilemma.
Iloilo City’s energy problems came up when Mirant Global Philippines announced it might shut down Panay Power Corporation’s (PPC) 72-MW facility at LaPaz district due to financial problems.
PPC’s operation was severely affected by the Energy Regulatory Commission’s order to cut Panay Electric Company’s (Peco) generation charges.
Mirant officials said what Peco pays PPC is not enough to pay for fuel to keep the plant running. Peco reportedly owes PPC P360million since September.
If not for the emergency fuel delivered by Pilipinas Shell to PPC last week, Iloilo City may have plunged into darkness on December 15.
The emergency fuel was supposed to run out yesterday but Treñas said the National Power Corporation (Napocor), through the efforts of Lotilla, will supply PPC with fuel which will last until January 8, 2006.
Treñas reiterated the need to put up a baseload plant in Panay to support the energy requirements of the city and province.
“If Peco can’t get power from PPC, we can tap to the Napocor. But assuming Napocor’s Pinamucan plant in Dingle, Iloilo is operational, it can only supply us with about 40MW which is way low compared to our peak demand of 78MW,” Treñas said.
Treñas earlier voiced out support for the construction of a coal-fired plant in Panay, which is cheaper than a diesel-fired plant, as long as environment regulations are observed. (Published in The Guardian, December 20, 2005 issue)



By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE provisional authority (PA) granted by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to Panay Electric Company (Peco) may not be enough to ensure steady supply of power to Iloilo City, an official of Mirant Global Corporation said.While Mirant Vice President for Visayas new Business Arman Lapus commended the ERC for acting on the financial problems of Panay Power Corporation (PPC) and averting power shutdown in Iloilo City, “the PA will not sustain PPC’s operations.”Mirant operates PPC’s 72-MW diesel-fired power plant at Barangay Ingore in LaPaz district. Lapus said the provisional generation rate of P6.5121 per kwh which the ERC allowed Peco to collect from consumers will only cover PPC’s actual expenses in running the plant including fuel cost and maintenance.“It (PA) does not allow PPC to recover its full costs, let alone generate profit. In short, we will continue to operate the plant sans any profit so we can provide Iloilo City with reliable power supply. But the ERC decision might not prevent the possible shutdown of the plant,” Lapus said.Lapus said if PPC does not recover the full generation cost soon, “we may find ourselves at risk of not meeting our obligations and defaulting on our loans and being forced out of business.”Earlier, Lapus said Peco owes PPC more than P364million since September. Meanwhile, the emergency fuel delivered by Pilipinas Shell to PPC last week will run out today which puts Iloilo City on the verge of another power blackout.But Lapus said Mirant’s top brass is in discussions with Shell and other potential suppliers to ensure that PPC continues to operate until the end of the year and through the first week of January 2006.PPC assistant vice president Adrian Moncada revealed that the Department of Energy under Secretary Raphael Lotilla is also planning to supply PPC with fuel from the National Power Corporation’s (Napocor) fuel suppliers.“We will find out today if the Napocor will augment our fuel supply until we have ironed out a deal with Shell using the ERC provisional order. We still cannot discount the possibility of a blackout in Iloilo City,” Moncada said.Still, Lapus assured that PPC is committed to take all necessary and immediate action to avoid closing down the plant to avert a massive blackout in Iloilo City.

Treñas blames past govts for power woes

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

THE power industry has an uncertain future as the government lacks the proper perspective and people who will handle the country’s energy needs.
“The problem is that past governments did not prepare to meet the demands for power,” stressed Iloilo City mayor Jerry P. Treñas who is also the president of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP).
The mayor particularly cited the case of Panay Island and Iloilo city in particular.
Treñas said Panay Island has no indigenous source of energy like geothermal plants.
He said only diesel fired power plants supply the energy requirements of the island which incurs high production costs due to soaring prices of oil in the world market.
“In the 90s, the government had no resources to construct power plants so the IPPs (Individual Power Producers) came in,” Treñas said.
Panay Power Corporation (PPC), the sole power supplier of the city, earlier groaned of financial difficulties brought about by the reduction of Panay Electric Cooperative’s charges.
PPC’s financial debacle almost resulted to a disastrous blackout in Iloilo City. But last Friday, Pilipinas Shell delivered bunker fuel to PPC’s 72-MW facility at LaPaz district.
The emergency fuel will run out today.
“This cloud of uncertainty has been discouraging investors in the power industry from coming into the country. The high power rates at the same time will not favor businesses,” Treñas said.
When asked for a solution, Treñas said he is open to the idea of putting up coal plants in Panay, with Semirara, Antique as the source of coal, since it is the cheapest source of reliable energy.
“As long as environmental safeguards are observed, coal plants are our best options for reliable power source,” Treñas said.
“Even right in the center of Washington DC in the United States, a coal plant is present,” Treñas added while noting his recent World Bank-sponsored study tour in the US and Europe with other Philippine local government officials.
The mayor also met with Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael Lotilla, who hails from Antique, last week to discuss long-term solutions for the power supply problem of Panay.
“Although it seemed that we have sufficient power supply, this is not accurate considering the limitations of the interconnection of the islands in Visayas. Since Panay is at the tail-end of the grid, it will only receive what is left of the grid,” the DOE chief said.
“We are already experiencing a lot of problems like rotating brownouts while the rest of Panay excluding Iloilo City has a deficit of 56.7 megawatts. Thus, a power plant must be put up on the island as a source of electricity,” Lotilla said.
“We need to install a higher plant capacity. But nobody will come to invest for it unless we are willing to pay the actual cost of power generation,” he clarified.
“As far as Panay is concerned, coal is one of the cheapest while the renewable energy is more expensive. We just have to address the policy standards and enforcement of anti-pollution measures,” said Lotilla.
(Published in The Guardian, December 19, 2005 issue)


Electricity continues to run Iloilo City with the emergency fuel delivered by Shell


By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESSURES from local and national officials averted a disastrous blackout in Iloilo City today after Pilipinas Shell delivered emergency fuel to Panay Power Corporation (PPC) yesterday.
Shell made the delivery “without payment” to PPC as it was pressured by local and national Ilonggo leaders.
Mayor Jerry Treñas confirmed the delivery after receiving a call from oil firm’s manager here.
The emergency fuel will keep PPC running for four days.
Also, Department of Energy sources said the National Power Corporation (Napocor), through its own fuel supplier, will deliver 15-days worth of bunker fuel to PPC.
If the arrangement pushes through, the combined amount of fuel from Shell and Napocor will keep PPC running until January 4, 2006.
Aside from Treñas, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. and his son Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., and Governor Niel Tupas Sr. also burned the lines to compel the national government to help solve the city’s energy crisis.
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla earlier vowed that no blackout will hit Iloilo City.
Also, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) came out with a provisional authority (PA) allowing Panay Electric Company (Peco) to charge its consumer P6.5121/kwh which will be used to pay the actual cost of power generated by PPC.
The ERC said the PA “will mean cash flow alleviation to Peco and PPC for it will address their financial concerns.”
The said amount in the PA is broken down to P1.25/kwh for operating and maintenance cost, P4.9121 for fuel cost which is the actual as of October 2005 and P.35/kwh for interest expense on debt.
Aside from the temporary charges, the ERC also ordered Peco to interconnect with the Cebu-Negros-Panay power grid to avoid future recurrence of energy crisis
The energy crisis in Iloilo City began after PPC suffered from financial problems brought about by the reduction in Peco’s charges due to the unbundling of rates under the Electric Power Industry Act.
“We finally avert the looming power outage in the city,” Treñas said.
Earlier, the mayor said that “we have assurance from Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure there is no power disruption.”
“The PPC is also working within limits so that there would be no power interruptions anymore of power generation,” Treñas said.
The mayor also discussed with Lotilla the inadequate power supply scenario in the city.
Treñas added the city will be looking into the adjustment in electricity rates as well as long-term solutions to address the looming power crisis.
“We are not in the state of panic. I had instructed the police to increase visibility with the support of barangay tanods to ensure the security of everyone’s lives and properties if ever there is power failure,” he clarified. (Published in The Guardian, December 16-18, 2005 issue)


Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla (right) with businessmen Tony Jon and Alfonso Uy.

Energy czar: Coal-fired plants
will solve Panay’s power woes

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Jeehan V. Fernandez

A RELIABLE power plant in Panay Island will prevent another power crisis just like the blackout scenario in Iloilo City resulting from the financial setback faced by Panay Power Corporation (PPC).
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla yesterday reiterated the need of putting up a baseload plant in Iloilo “due to the diminishing power supply from the National Power Corporation (Napocor).”
“Panay cannot rely on Napocor for long term energy supply. There is a need to put up a plant here,” Lotilla said.
Lotilla was the guest of honor during the Annual General Membership Meeting of the Iloilo Business Club at Amigo Terrace Hotel yesterday.
The energy czar presented the actual power situation in Panay to the Iloilo business community.
Lotilla said despite the uprating of the 400-MW submarine cable from Leyte to the Cebu-Negros-Panay power grid, “Panay continues to suffer from low voltage.”
“For as long as there is no power plant of sizable capacity here, Panay will always have energy problems. Panay now is suffering from a 56.7MW deficit,” Lotilla said.
As regards the problem of PPC which resulted from the reduction of Panay Electric Company’s power rates, Lotilla “it is a system-wide problem that needs long term solution.”
“Given the current price of oil in the world market, bunker fuel which, is used in diesel-fired power plants like that of PPC, is one of the most expensive fuel. As long as we don’t have a reliable and cheap baseload plant like a coal-fired power plant, we have to be prepared to bear higher power rates. Whether we like or not, a coal plant is the cheapest source of that will immediately solve our problems here,” Lotilla said.
ERC blinks
Meanwhile, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman Rodolfo Albano said they will give Peco provisional authority to charge the actual cost of power generation to its consumers so it can pay its debt to PPC.
“The amount will be enough only for Peco to pay PPC so it can sustain its operation. PPC is losing heavily on current generation rate Peco is charging the consumers. We are still working on the figures and formula of the provisional order which will only be temporary until we have decided on Peco’s petition. With these, the PPC already assured there will be no blackouts in Iloilo,” Albano said.
Since last week, the ERC has been giving different statements on the possible solution to PPC’s financial dilemma.
Last Friday, Albano insisted that Peco must pay PPC the actual cost of power generation without burdening the consumers.
Yesterday morning, reports came out that ERC will compel Peco to interconnect with the National Transmission Corporation to get power supply from the Napocor. The ERC also suggested that Peco prepare its generation set at Gen. Luna Street, Iloilo City.
Albino said they expect to finalize the provisional order today.
Since last night, PPC and Mirant Global Corporation held high level meetings to discuss contingency plans if they find the ERC order unacceptable. (Published in The Guardian, December 15, 2005 issue)


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.


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.
Hands full
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.)


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)

Sunday, December 11, 2005


PPC assistant vice president Andy Moncada and Mirant vice president Arman Lapus meet with Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr.


By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO City might just spend Christmas in a brighter setting with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) stepping in the “financial fray” between Panay Power Corporation (PPC) and Panay Electric Company (Peco).
ERC chairman Rodolfo Albano said they will issue a provisional authority early next week to compel Peco to pay PPC what is due the power producer so it can continue to supply electricity to the city.
Earlier, Mirant Global Corporation vice president for Visayas New Business Arman Lapus and PPC assistant vice president Adrian Moncada said they cannot sustain the operation of the 72-MW diesel-fired power plant at Barangay Ingore, LaPaz after Peco cut its rate P2 last September.
Lapus said Peco owes PPC more than P360million which has affected their fuel supply from Shell Corporation.
“Our fuel stock is only up to December 15. Shell won’t deliver Bunker C fuel if we cannot pay our outstanding accounts. And if we cannot purchase fuel before December 15, we will have to shut down the plant,” Lapus said.
But Albano said Peco cannot pass on to the consumers the amount it will pay PPC.
“Peco must pay PPC the actual cost of power. But they cannot charge that to the consumers until we have made a decision on their petition for rate increase,” Albano said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo station manager John Paul Tia Friday evening.
If Peco resents the order, Albano said the distribution firm must present a valid reason why it will not follow the provisional authority.
The ERC chief said the order is now being routed to his fellow commissioners for their signatures.
“The order might be out either on Monday or Tuesday,” Albano said.
Albano said the commission’s action was similar to the solution they made on the problem of Cebu Private Power Corporation (CPPC) which accounts for 20 percent of the Cebu’s power requirement.
CPPC was also on the verge of shutting down as Visayas Electric Cooperative was paying the former less than the actual cost of power.
“This will ensure that there will be no blackout on December 15 as what PPC and Mirant are saying,” Albano said.
Apparently, pressures from Iloilo and national leaders forced ERC to avert the power blackout in the city.
Since yesterday morning, Governor Niel Tupas was burning the lines to compel Albano to solve the power crisis.
“My constituents might be in the province but the provincial capitol will be severely affected by the blackout. Being a consumer also, I made my own move to solve this problem. Rest assured that there will be no blackout next week,” Tupas said.
On Wednesday, Iloilo City Representative Raul Gonzalez Jr. wrote President Gloria Arroyo and asked her to temporarily take over PPC to avert the blackout.
Reports from Manila said the President also called up Albano upon receiving Gonzalez’s letter.
Lapus and Moncada met with Gonzalez yesterday to explain the actual situation of PPC.
Gonzalez said he sent the letter to the President “just in case something happens.”
But Lapus assured Gonzalez that they will continue to operate if ERC issues a “win-win solution” to their problem.
“We are not blackmailing the consumers and our leaders. In fact, we are being open and honest to the people about the real situation of the plant. As well-meaning businessmen, we want to be transparent to our consumers. If the ERC decision will give us a leeway to buy fuel from our supplier, we can continue supplying power to the city,” Lapus said.
Good news
Meanwhile, Moncada said the ERC’s provisional authority “is good news.”
“The order can be strong collateral to our creditor and supplier. But it will depend on Shell’s policy if they will deliver fuel on basis of the ERC decision or they will demand for cash,” Moncada said.
But Moncada said it will “be premature say that we will not shut down the plant until we have seen the ERC order and ascertained its implementation.”
“What we need right now is something that will convince Shell that we can pay them for the fuel we will purchase. Or we can also go to the bank to borrow money using the ERC order as an assurance that we can pay them back. Early on, we have arranged with Shell to make sure that they have enough fuel to supply to the plant,” Moncada said.
However, Atty. Honorato Sayno said the ERC can only regulate rates of power distribution firms “but it cannot intervene if how we will pay PPC.”
“But we will first see the content of the order before we make our own move,” Sayno said. (Published in The Guardian, December 10-11, 2005 issue)


ENGR. Moncada: It's painful but we have no choice


By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is no other way out of the looming blackout in Iloilo City due to financial setbacks bugging Panay Power Corporation (PPC) but the immediate action of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) even as an Ilonggo solon urged Malacañang to takeover the plant.
Engineer Adrian Moncada, PPC assistant vice president, said unless the ERC gives provisional authority to Panay Electric Company (Peco) to exact a higher generation charge rate on its consumers, “our power plant will definitely shut down on December 15.”
Because of the unbundling of rates policy set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act,
the ERC ordered Peco to cut its rate to P3.74 per kilowatt hour.
The rate cut affected PPC’s operation as Peco’s payment to the power producer “is not enough for our fuel,” Moncada said.
“We are forced to operate within the P3.74 per kwh Peco is paying us. But we actually bill them P6.83 per kwh. How can we sustain the plant when Peco is paying us less than half of what we charge them?” the PPC executive explained.
Moncada added they cannot anymore resort to load shedding as it would still result to power loss in at least 50 percent of the city.
“Our fuel stock is only enough until December 15. If we cannot buy fuel, we will shut down the plant. This is not blackmail. These are facts and realities and we are only telling the truth no matter how painful it is. In fact, the consumers should be thankful that we are telling them this reality via the media and the local officials. It is not in the characteristic of PPC to resort to blackmail. All of us will be affected by this problem,” Moncada said.
In a month, the PPC consumes 8million liters of Bunker C fuel which is supplied by Shell Corp.
Considering the current price of fuel, the power producer spends P160million for fuel alone.
Since the implementation of the rate cut in September, Peco already owes PPC P360million.
Moncada revealed Shell will not supply fuel to the plant unless PPC pays its debt to the oil firm.
PPC has no other fuel source options because of the existing contract with Shell, Moncada added.
Moncada said the only immediate solution to the problem is for the ERC to give provisional authority to Peco to charge an ample rate so it can pay PPC’s power supply.
“If the ERC can grant Peco’s prayer for provisional authority, we can go to the bank to borrow money for our fuel using the ERC ruling as a guarantee for the loan. The provisional authority is strong justification for the loan,” Moncada said.
Executive action
Meanwhile, Iloilo City Lone District Representative Raul Gonzalez Jr. wrote President Arroyo to takeover PPC’s facility at Barangay Ingore, LaPaz to avert a “dark, dangerous and gloomy holiday for us.”
In a copy of the letter obtained by The Guardian, Gonzalez said the blackout will have “serious implications to Iloilo City and the region.”
“I beg your Excellency to for the issuance of an executive order for the immediate albeit temporary government takeover of the operations of the said power plant,” Gonzalez said in the letter.
Gonzalez cited section 17, article 11 of the Philippine Constitution which allows the government “to take over privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”
“This is not much so much a matter of imminent danger, but a matter of clear and present danger to the economy, peace and order and political stability,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also suggested the deployment of a power barge to Iloilo City “in any eventuality.”
Due process
But Moncada said the government cannot just grab control of the 72-MW plant.
“There must be due process on this matter. What kind of takeover will the government do? If they can give fuel to us, that would be better. But to physically take control of the plant is a legal question I cannot address right now,” Moncada said.
Moncada also said the plan to takeover PPC will only result to serious repercussions to the government in the international community.
“What will the international community say when the government grabs control of multinational energy firm? This will discourage investors to come to the country. The reason why we were invited here to invest is to supply reliable and quality energy. But since we are also businessmen, we expect appropriate compensation for our product and services,” Moncada said.
Moncada added they will meet with Gonzalez today to discuss PPC’s problem. (Published in The Guardian, December 9, 2005)


GMA abolishes Drilon's airport commitee

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

IS MALACAÑANG exacting political revenge on the Tupas administration through the international airport project?
President Gloria Arroyo has intervened in the new Iloilo international airport project (Niadp) by ordering a review of all contracts and procedures of the P6.2-billion project.
Concerned with the worsening delay of the project, President Gloria Arroyo on December 2 issued a memorandum which abolished the Iloilo Airport Coordinating Committee composed of Senate President Franklin Drilon, Gov. Niel Tupas, Rep. Arthur Defensor, former Rep. Augusto Syjuco the municipal mayors of Cabatuan and Maasin towns and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
Drilon and Tupas withdrew their support from the President in July for alleged election fraud in 2004 and other accusations of graft and corruption.
“Considering the need to catch up with serious and escalating delays in the construction of the new Iloilo international airport, and to resolve environmental and legal issues as well as issues on equity, legality and propriety, the Iloilo International Airport Coordinating Council is hereby abolished and its functions transferred to the Secretary of Transportation.
The primary task of the committee is to draft policies involving the construction of the airport and help the DOTC on concerns occurring at the local level.
The President also ordered DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza to provide overall policy guidelines and directions in the equitable, effective and timely implementation of the project and re-examination of all existing contracts and procedures.
Apparently, Ms. Arroyo got wind of the gaping delay of the project caused by weather problems and lack of filling materials for the embankment of the airport site.
The latest report by the Japan Airport Consultants (JAC) showed the project is 5.75 months behind its target completion in October 2006.
Earlier, Malacañang’s hand was also seen in the relief of Engineers Raphael Lavides and Vicente Andres as project manager and deputy project manager, respectively, of the Niadp.
But DOTC undersecretary Ricardo Tan said Lavides was actually promoted to the Project Management Office. “There is no politics here. It was a routine transfer.”
Last month, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources stopped the rock crushing plant from processing aggregate material for the airport site for violating the Philippine Mining Act.
Although Estancia gasoline dealer Melvin Requinto manages the plant, the facility is actually owned by the Montesclaros family, the balaye of Gov. Tupas.
But the Capitol said Malacañang’s intervention is politically motivated.
In fact, Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada downplayed the abolition of the airport committee saying it has been dormant since last year.
Mejorada said the only actual participation of the committee to the project is in the purchase of the airport site and the relocation area for communities affected by the project.
“It is clear that Malacañang’s act is politically motivated after Senator Drilon and Gov. Tupas withdrew their support from the President. This could actually delay the project even more,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada also slammed the cease and desist order against the rock crushing plant. “The contractor is having difficulties in looking for filling materials. With the crushing plant in the freezer, the project will suffer more setbacks.”
Mejorada added: “This flurry of events is all aimed at discrediting the governor and Senator Drilon who worked hard for this project. And there are even rumors that the administration will file charges against Gov. Tupas and have him suspended next year.”
House probe
At the House of Representatives yesterday, the committee on good government chaired by Rep. Defensor concluded its investigation into the airport project.
Despite the hype surrounding his appearance before the inquiry, former congressman and now Tesda chief Syjuco only reiterated his “Turil ni Niel” exposé three years ago.
Syjuco presented documents that allegedly linked Tupas to the operation of the rock crushing plant of his balaye including quarry and mineral permits, delivery receipts and contracts.
Syjuco also discussed how Tupas allegedly cornered the operation of the burrow pit area by giving quarry permits to contractors identified with the latter.
“These papers prove that Gov. Tupas violated the anti-graft and corrupt practices act by earning from the operation of the rock crushing plant and handing our permits to his favored contractors,” Syjuco said.
During the penultimate leg of the hearing, Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) discovered that the Japanese airport contractor Taisei-Shimizu was actually doing business with the Montesclaros instead of Requinto.
Biron said it is highly irregular for Requinto, who applied for the permit for the crusher, has no business with Taisei.
Yesterday, Taisei officials showed their contract with Montesclaros and the delivery receipts in the name of Tupas’s balaye.
Ian Stewart of the JAC also confirmed before the committee that the airport project is suffering from a 50-percent slippage, contrary to the DOTC’s assessment of 18-percent delay.
Stewart said the main cause of the delay is not just the weather but also the quality and availability of filling materials.
DOTC Sec. Mendoza even told Iloilo congressman that he is planning to review the airport contract with the Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture for possible rescission.
Defensor said their recommendations will focus on the burrow pit area, the slippage in the project and other environmental and social concerns.
“If there are grounds, we can file charges against those responsible for the irregularities we have discovered,” Defensor said.


Atty. Romeo Gerochi (2nd from right) grills Engr. Bien Anatan of Peco while Atty. Hans Sayno (extreme left) and ERC Hearing officer Francis Juan listen.


By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Jeehan V. Fernandez

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will try to come up with a “win-win” solution which will avert the looming power blackout in Iloilo City once Panay Power Corporation (PPC) shuts down.
Atty. Francis Juan, who presided over the first hearing on Panay Electric Company’s (Peco) petition to revalidate its power supply agreement with PPC yesterday, said they will first verify the power producer’s claims.
“If there is truth to what PPC is saying, the ERC can always step in to arrange a compromise between Peco and PPC,” Juan said.
Juan further said they also applied the same compromise in the case of Visayas Electric Cooperative (Veco) and Cebu Private Power Corporation (CPPC) in Cebu.
CPPC planned to shut down its facility, which only accounts 20 percent of Cebu’s power demand, as Veco’s payment cannot sustain the former’s operation.
But concerted demands from Cebu’s local leadership and business community forced the ERC to address the problem.
Juan said while they are hearing Peco’s petition, they can propose a provisionary rate which can sustain PPC.
“We have a lot of measures to undertake if only to prevent a power blackout in Iloilo City. We can ask PPC and Peco to maintain the status quo for the meantime. There is also the possibility of coming up with a temporary rate pending the approval of Peco’s petition,” Juan said.
Juan said the ERC cannot allow a blackout to happen in the city given its disastrous effects to the economy.
But Juan said they cannot take over PPC’s facility because it is a private firm owned by Mirant Global Corporation.
“Maybe if the President sees it right to take over the plant, only she can do so,” Juan said.
Rotating brownouts
But the PPC said all they can do right now is to stretch their fuel supply for the meantime.
Engr. Adrian Moncada, Mirant assistant vice president, said their fuel stock is only up to December 15 as Shell has not been delivering diesel to PPC.
“As what we said before, Peco’s payment is not enough to pay for our fuel. Our supply is only good up to next week,” Moncada said.
As an option, Moncada said the PPC can reduce its capacity, which will result to rotating brownouts in the city, “so we can save on fuel until the supply lasts.”
“That is the least that could happen to Iloilo City. If the ERC can come up with a win-win decision, then we might just have a bright New Year’s celebration,” Moncada added.
Earlier, Mirant Vice President for Visayas New Business Arman Lapus said the ERC-ordered rate cut on Peco has affected their cash flow and eventually PPC’s operation.
Lapus said Peco owes PPC more than P250million for October and November.
In yesterday’s hearing, Peco presented documents required by the ERC in support for its petition.
Peco’s lead counsel was Atty. Honorato Sayno while Attys. Romeo Gerochi and Edeljulio Romero represented the oppositors.
After the presentation of the documents, Engr. Bienvenido Anatan, head of Peco’s engineering division, gave a technical explanation of Iloilo City’s power situation.
Anatan revealed a certification from National Power Corporation (Napocor) president Cyril Delcallar on their inability to meet Iloilo City’s 78MW demand on peak.
“Technically speaking, the Napocor cannot supply power to Iloilo City for lack of reliable sources,” Anatan said.
Anatan added Napocor’s output is not even enough for Panay.
Earlier, Engr. Nelson Homena, manager of the Panay diesel-fired power plant in Dingle, Iloilo, said they have no extra electricity to supply to Peco.
“What we have is only enough for our area in Panay. We are even having rotating brownouts due to low voltage. We cannot increase our capacity since it would be expensive for us,” Homena told this writer in a telephone interview Monday.
Homena also said they cannot rely on the Pinamucan power plant which is up for overhauling.
In the cross-examination, Gerochi queried Anatan on financial matters involving its power supply agreement with PPC.
But Anatan said his area is on the technical operations of Peco.
Gerochi said Anatan’s testimony was hearsay “because he failed to present PPC’s actual power rates.”
“He only based his claims on their accounting records. It could have been better if they had an official document duly signed by PPC officials,” the lawyer-cum-activist said.
But Sayno said Gerochi “did not demolish anything nor did he establish anything.”
This early, Sayno claimed victory in yesterday’s hearing.
“We believe the hearing was successful while we achieved the intention to present our witness who brought out the power supply and demand scenario here. We felt that there is a looming energy crisis in Panay Island,” Sayno stressed.
Interestingly, not one City Hall official was present at the hearing held at the ATM Building in Ledesma Street.
Vice Mayor Guillermo Dela Llana, who acts in behalf of Mayor Jerry Treñas who is abroad, said they will wait and see the ERC decision on Peco’s petition.
Dela Llana also declined to make a stand on the issue. “It is up to Mayor Treñas to make a stand on this.”
Officials of Iloilo Business Club led by president Antonio Jon, Marissa Segovia and Ma. Leah Victoria Lara showed up to observe the proceedings.
Although the IBC has yet to come up an official stance on Peco’s petition, Lara said they are concerned with the looming blackout once PPC shuts down.
The next hearing is on January 19, 2006 although Gerochi petitioned to move the schedule to an earlier date.
Juan said he will refer Gerochi’s motion to the ERC en banc. (Published in The Guardian, December 7, 2005 issue)



By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CONTRARY to the claims of a lawyer-cum-consumer activist, Iloilo City cannot rely on the National Power Corporation (Napocor) for electricity supply if Panay Power Corporation (PPC) decides to shut down its operations due to financial problems.
Engr. Nelson Homena, plant manager of Napocor’s diesel-fired power plant in Dingle, Iloilo, made the grim revelation even as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is set to hear the Panay Electric Company’s (Peco) petition to revalidate its power supply agreement with PPC.
Last week, officials of Mirant Global Philippines, which owns PPC, said they might cease from providing power to Iloilo City this month as Peco is paying less than what they are buying from the power producer due to the ERC-sanctioned rate cut.
Mirant vice president for Visayas New Business Arman Lapus said Peco owes them more than P250million three months after the rate reduction.
“What Peco is paying is not even enough for our fuel. There is a need to revert back to the old Peco rates so we can continue operating,” Lapus said.
In an interview with The Guardian, Homena said they cannot supply electrical power to Peco and Iloilo City “since we also have our own problems.”
Earlier, Atty. Romeo Gerochi of Freedom from Debt Coalition claimed that the Napocor can provide electrical power to the city
But the Napocor is already supplying power to Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique which have a combined demand of 110-115 megawatts.
Homena said they have an actual capacity of 128MW sourced from the power barge stationed at Estancia, Iloilo; the 17.5-MW Panay diesel-fired power plant in Dingle town; and an additional 65MW from the Cebu-Negros-Panay power grid.
“In fact, we only get what is left of the CNP grid as we are at the tail end of the line. The CNP power supply is meant to augment our generation,” Homena said.
However, power industry experts said power producer must have a reserve of at least 20MW in order to ensure its supply.
With only a 13-MW reserve, Napocor’s capability to supply power to Iloilo City is “precarious.”
Homena said their reserve power is only enough to fill in the needs of Panay consumers, especially during peak hours. “What we have is only enough for Panay.”
Not even the Pinamucan diesel fired plant can help avert the looming power blackout in Iloilo City as it has yet to operate.
Homena said they have only tested four out of eight engines of the 110-MW Pinamucan plant.
“But we still have to overhaul the four engines to make sure that they will operate properly. Our major concern now is funding because we will be spending hundreds of millions of pesos for overhauling alone. And we still have four engines left to fix,” Homena said.
Homena projected the full operation of the Pinamucan plant, which has a dependable output of 80MW, early next year. But even if it comes to life, the said plant will only serve as replacement supply rather than additional supply to Panay with the pending transfer of the 32-MW power barge from Estancia town to Mindanao.
Low voltage
Homena also admitted that majority Iloilo towns are suffering from rotating brownouts due to low voltage capacity of the transmission lines to the three Iloilo electric cooperatives.
“But this problem now falls under the jurisdiction of the National Transmission Corporation which is trying to up-rate its lines. They are suggesting that we generate more power to make up for low voltage but that would be too expensive for us,” Homena said.
And even if Napocor can supply power to Peco, Homena said it will take some time due to lack of interconnection structures and contract.
“We have no interconnection with Peco since 1998 when it bought power exclusively from PPC. It’s a long shot for us to support the power needs of Iloilo if PPC closes down,” Homena said.
At the City Hall, the wait-and-see mode prevails.
“Let’s just wait for the result of public hearing. We will not pre-empt what will be the outcome of the consultation,” acting Mayor Guillermo Dela Llana explained to reporters yesterday.
Dela Llana also left the responsibility to make a stand on the issue to Mayor Jerry Treñas who is due to return from abroad on December 12.
“It will depend on the decision of Mayor Trenas to make a stand on the issue. This is a big problem for the city. I leave that to him (to address),” Dela Llana pointed out.
Dela Llana said the business community will be severely affected by the “power crisis” although he hinted it would be “repulsive to bring back the old rate since consumers would be against it.”
When asked on the looming blackout if PPC ceases its operations due to losses brought about by the reduced rates, Dela Llana said “that remains to be seen.”
“That is a big question since the city is relying on Peco alone for electricity,” he added. (With reports from Jeehan v. Fernandez)

LMP: Blackout disastrous to economy

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE League of Municipalities (LMP) – Iloilo Chapter is the first sector to voice out support for Panay Power Corporation’s (PPC) appeal to revert to the old Panay Electric Company (Peco) rates to prevent closure on the part of the power producer.
After a special meeting with Mirant Global Corporation and PPC officials last December 2 at the new provincial capitol, the LMP came out with Resolution No. 25-12/02/2005 urging the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to “immediately formulate a win-win and lasting solution to this problem that will ensure reliable electric power service to the consumer.”
The ERC is set to hear today Peco’s petition to revalidate its power supply agreement with PPC which has been severely affected by the recent rate cut.
The resolution said that power failure and interruption are inimical to the economic growth and development of the province of Iloilo and should be avoided at all costs.
The LMP, headed by Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas, said they are concerned with the prospects of a power blackout in Iloilo City “due to the operational constraints affecting the resources of the power plant in procurement of fuel supply.”
The LMP also believes that investors in Iloilo, including Peco and PPC “should be allowed to earn a reasonable and fair return on investments for them to be able to provide reliable and continuous service to the consumers.”
“The threat of a massive power failure – be it in Iloilo City or the province – in this Christmas season will surely create a negative impression in the economic thrust of the business sector and the consumer market as a whole,” the resolution further stated.
Aside from Tupas, other officers who signed the resolution were Mayors Gerardo Flores of Miag-ao, LMP secretary-general; Alex Centena of Calinog, vice president for external affairs; Rolando Distura of Dumangas, executive vice president; Mariano Malones of Maasin, treasurer; June Mondejar, VP for internal affairs; and Romeo Jessmon Labramonte, executive director.
Copies of the resolution were furnished to the ERC, Peco, PPC, Office of the Iloilo City Mayor and the Iloilo provincial government. (Published in The Guardian, December 6, 2005 issue)


Intl airport engineers relieved over yawning slippage

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE gaping delay in the construction of the P6.2-billion new Iloilo international airport at Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area has resulted to the sacking of the two engineers in charged of the project.
Last November 21, 2005, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza ordered the relief of Engrs. Raphael Lavides and Victor Andres as project manager and deputy project manager, respectively, of the New Iloilo Airport Development Project (Niadp).
Engrs. Roberto Jaime Salazar and Jose Nathaniel Caguimbal replaced Lavides and Andres.
Salazar was earlier assigned at the Silay international airport project in Negros Occidental.
According to reports, the Lavides and Andres got the boot for failure to arrest the continued slippage of the Niadp which has pushed the target completion of the project to 2007.
In the latest accomplishment report for September, the accumulated delay of the project is now at 57.31 percent to 59.32 percent or equivalent to 5.75 months.
The report was prepared by the Japan Airport Consultants, Inc. (JAC), Philippine JAC, Inc. and the Basic Technology and Management Corporation.
Rep. Rolex Suplico (5th district, Iloilo) said the September status of the project is worse compared to the August progress report.
In August, the consultants pegged the slippage at 55.60 percent to 57.44 percent.
“As I said before, the gap keeps on widening,” Suplico said.
Despite the catch up and amended catch up programs aimed at making for lost time, the slippage is still at 40.32 percent in August which then ballooned to 47.28 percent.
Aside from the proverbial “inclement weather” problems, the slow progress in the embankment or paving of the whole airport area is the main cause of the slippage.
Only 11,500 cubic meters of filling material was embanked on the runway area for the whole month of September, lesser compared to the 15,000 cubic meters of filling material delivered in August.
In the original program of works, the required amount of filling material is 10,000 cubic meters daily.
Even the supply of coarse aggregate remains a concern for the Japanese contractor Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV) as a bulk of the said filling material is brought from Rizal province in Luzon due to unsuitability of local quarry sources.
The consultants also noted the lack of skilled workers to work on the project.
The new airport is supposed to be finished in October 2006 but the slippage has forced the TSJV to propose a new completion period by the end of June 2007.
But the DOTC has yet to approve TSJV’s proposal.
Suplico said the delay is the main reason why Lavides and Andres were sacked.
“And I have faith in the new managers since the slippage in the Silay airport project when Salazar was in charge there,” Suplico said.
Suplico also reiterated his call to rescind the contract with TSJV. “It will now take a miracle for TSJV to finish the project by March 2006. It is now time to rescind the contract and get a more capable contractor. We should stop coddling TSJV.”
All politics
But Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said the relief of Lavides and Andres is smack with politics
“Apparently, somebody from up there pressured the DOTC to relief the two project managers or else the department’s budget will be slashed. Lavides and Andres were victims of ugly politics over the airport project,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada said he only learned of the change in Niadp management last Friday when he stumbled upon the despedida party for Lavides and Andres sponsored by quarry contractors in the project. (Published in The Guardian, December 5, 2005 issue)


ILOILO BUSINESS Club officers led by president Tony Jon (middle, foreground) Ma. Leah Victoria Lara and Marissa Segovia (background) during the ERC hearing on Peco's petition for rate increase last DEcember 6, 2005.


By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO City’s business community is in a wait-and-see mode as regards Panay Power Corporation’s (PPC) looming shutdown although they are worried with the possible blackout which is disastrous to local economy.
Members and officers of the Iloilo Business Club (IBC) led by president Antonio Jon met with Mirant Global Corporation vice president for Visayas New Business Arman Lapus and PPC officials to discuss the effect of Panay Electric Company’s (Peco) rate cut to the independent power producer’s operations.
Lapus reiterated the need to return to Peco’s old rates to sustain PPC’s operation and the availability of power supply to the city.
Lapus also asked the support of the IBC for Peco’s petition to return to its old rates “so we can continue to provide our local businesses with enough power supply.”
Reached by The Guardian right after the meeting, Leah Victoria Lara, IBC executive director, said they still have to study all sides of the issue before they can make an official stand.
Lara said they did not have enough numbers to come up with an official stance on PPC’s appeal “but we are concerned by the prospect of a power blackout in the city.”
“That would not be very good for the local economy and we really want to avert such condition,” Lara said.
Lara added that the IBC will first gather necessary data for them to consider prior to making an official statement. “We have to know what the real score is and the right figures first.”
She said she will attend the December 6 hearing by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Peco’s petition to revalidate its power supply agreement with PPC.
“Whatever data we will get, I will present it to the general membership and the board of directors which will become the basis for our official statement,” Lara said.
When asked for the reason of their “academic approach” on the issue, Lara explained: “We believe there are other options aside from going back to the old Peco rates and experiencing a power blackout. There might be other people who have some idea that will come up with a win-win solution.”
Lara said the IBC also hopes the ERC will resolve the issue as soon as possible “so the local economy won’t be hampered by power loss.”
“We really want our businesses and local economy to continue running. The last thing we want is an economic meltdown due to lack of power,” she said.
Earlier city and provincial officials also expressed concern over PPC’s pronouncements and its possible effect on the economy. (Published in The Guardian, December 3-4, 2005 issue)

Friday, December 02, 2005



By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Francis Allan L. Angelo

TOP Iloilo City and provincial officials Iloilo urged the Energy Regulatory Commission to save the city from a possible power blackout even as they suggested to Mirant Global Corporation, owner of Panay Power Corporation (PPC), and Panay Electric Company (Peco) to settle their “financial differences.”
This, after a top Mirant executive revealed the other day that they are losing hundreds of millions of pesos in the last two months after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) ordered Peco to reduce its rates.
Arman Lapus, Mirant vice President for Visayas New Business, said if the ERC does not allow Peco to revert to its old rate, PPC might shut down by end of this year.
Yesterday, acting Iloilo City Mayor Guillermo Dela Llana said “Mirant should ask Peco to pay what is due them.”
During his conversation with Lapus and PPC officials Wednesday, Dela Llana suggested to PPC to seek the help of the business community to support them in their call to revert to the old Peco rates.
“I instructed Mirant to appeal to businessmen and make them commit their support for the continued operation of the power plant. I also suggested that they compromise with each other,” Dela Llana explained.
Peco has pending petition with the ERC to revalidate its power purchase agreement with PPC. The public hearing for the said petition is scheduled on December 9 here in Iloilo City.
However, Dela Llana said it is up to Mayor Jerry Treñas to make a stand on the looming power blackout if ever PPC ceases from operating.
“I can’t say anything right now. We will have to wait for the decision of the mayor. I don’t know what will be the stand of the city. Whatever the mayor endorses to the City Council, then we will look into the matter,” Dela Llana told reporters yesterday.
Meanwhile, Councilor Jed Mabilog said it is up to the ERC to come up with a win-win decision to save Iloilo City from a possible blackout.
“The ball is now with the ERC to decide on a setup that will be beneficial to PPC, Peco and the consumers. And we also appeal to the two power firms to settle their differences,” Mabilog said.
Mabilog was also optimistic that PPC will not allow Iloilo City to plunge into darkness. But in the event that such situation is inevitable “then we should ready our disaster response mechanism.”
“We will wait and see if PPC will indeed shutdown. But we just hope it won’t happen,” the neophyte councilor said.
Governor Niel Tupas was also concerned with PPC’s pronouncements although he doubts the power firm will just stop from operating.
“Under the law, PPC cannot just leave us in the dark. The solution now lies in the hands of the ERC commissioners,” Tupas said.
Atty. Romeo Gerochi, who has waged a crusade against Peco, said the power distributor can go to the National Power Corporation (Napocor) in Dingle, Iloilo for power supply.
Gerochi said the Napocor is due to activate the Pinamucan power plant which has a higher capacity than PPC.
But Napocor officials already admitted the Pinamucan diesel-fired power plant is not enough to augment the power needs of Iloilo.
It has been more than a year since the Napocor transferred the Pinamucan power plant, which cost the government more than P600million, but it has yet to operate due to mechanical defects.

‘Hello Garci’ in SEA Games? Why not, says ex-cabinet member

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FILIPINOS should not wonder if Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accused us of cheating in the ongoing Southeast Asian Games.
After all, President Gloria Arroyo is accused by some of her own countrymen of rigging last year’s elections, a former cabinet secretary said.
Former National Anti-Poverty Commission secretary Teresita “Ding” Quintos-Deles yesterday said questions against the legitimacy Arroyo administration has already reached the international community.
“Internationally, we are being regarded as adept cheaters since doubts on the President’s legitimacy have preceded her even to the SEA Games. For the international community, Filipinos have the penchant to cheat as there is still no closure to the allegations against the President despite the pronouncements of her spokesperson that the ‘Hello Garci’ issue is a closed book already,” Deles said.
Deles, also the former chairman of the government peace panel, was in Iloilo City yesterday to grace the opening of the 6th NGO-PO Week celebration.
The celebration is spearheaded by the Iloilo Coalition of People’s Organizations and Non-Government Organizations.
Deles said the lingering issues of alleged cheating and graft and corruption against the President is giving the country a bad image.
“Our dilemma now is how we can protect our reputation against derisive accusations when our very leaders are also under suspicion of cheating. Our sense of morality is now diminished,” she said.
Still, Deles said Shinawatra’s statements were undiplomatic and distasteful for a foreign official to make “and that must be addressed through diplomatic channels.”
“It was an extraordinary statement on the part of high foreign official to accuse a nation of cheating and it was very rude as we are the host country. But once foreign leaders speak like that about us, we should start wondering why,” Deles said.
But Thai sports officials have apologized for Shinawatra’s statement even as President Arroyo ordered an investigation into her counterpart’s allegations.
Meanwhile, Deles attributed the surge in violence between government and rebel forces to the government’s lack of focus on the peace and order situation.
“During my time as adviser for peace process, we really gave our full attention to the peace talks and any encounters between the military and the rebels. But since the present government is pre-occupied with political survival, we can expect more clashes in the future,” Deles said.
Deles, along with other members of the so-called Hyatt 10, resigned from the Arroyo cabinet and exposed alleged irregularities committed by the President to win in the last elections.
Deles is now one of the stalwarts of the Black and White Movement which is also calling for reforms in the government and the resignation of the President. (Published in The Guardian-Western Visayas, December 2, 2005)


PPC bleeding due to Peco rate cut

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE looming power blackout in Iloilo City is becoming real as independent power producer (IPP) Panay Power Corporation (PPC), is reeling from over a hundred million pesos in losses as a result of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) order reducing Panay Electric Company’s (Peco) power rates.
In the last two months, PPC has lost P250million in revenues as Peco has passed on to the said power producer the ERC-sanctioned rate reduction. PPC operates a 72-megawatt diesel-fired power plant in LaPaz district.
Arman Lapus, Mirant Global Corporation vice president for Visayas New Business, yesterday said Peco virtually charged to PPC the P2 rate reduction by paying less than what is stipulated in their power supply agreement.
To stress his point, he said that "what we collect from Peco now is not even enough to pay for our fuel. That has been our situation for the pass three months and I am not even talking about other operational cost," Lapus said.
He added PPC can absorb the losses until December only. "If nothing happens for us this December, then we have no choice but to shut down the plant."
Along with the erratic movement of oil prices in the world market and the peso-dollar rate Lapus said PPC’s operations have been severely affected by Peco’s sudden rate cut. And if the bleeding continues, Iloilo City might a power blackout during the Christmas season.
Lapus said what they are spending over P4 per kilowatt-hour for fuel alone but Peco pays PPC less than P4.
Meanwhile, Lapus confirmed the pending petition with the ERC to revalidate Peco's power purchase agreement with PPC. The hearing for the said petition is scheduled on December 6, 2005 in Iloilo City.
Lapus said there is a need to return to the old Peco rate to sustain the operation of PPC and avert a possible power blackout in the city.
“Since PPC operates a diesel-fired power plant, our operations are influenced by oil price and inflation and which we pass on to Peco. We have a fixed rate which moves depending on market forces which is normal in the energy industry. But we don’t make money from the adjustment due to price of diesel, we pass it to Peco which in turns passes it to the consumers,” Lapus said. Lapus said they want to return to the old Peco rate "to ensure the availability and reliability of power in Iloilo City.”
“We are going around Iloilo gain the support of various sectors to go back to the old rate because it will allow us to continue running the plant. With the existing rate, we cannot (operate the plant). We have to stop the bleeding or else we might not sustain our operations. We want to hold on for the consumers but we just can’t do it at the present rate,” Lapus said.
Lapus added PPC’s rates cannot be pegged to what National Power Corporation (Napocor) is charging other distribution firms “since its rate is a mix of many sources like geothermal, hydropower and diesel and is subsidized by the government.”
Engr. Adrian Moncada, Mirant assistant vice president for Visayas, said Peco cannot rely on the debt-saddled Napocor for power supply as Iloilo province has been suffering from rotation brownouts the past months.
With Panay at the tailend of teh Cebu-Negros-Panay power grid, Ilonggos still cannot rely on Napocor for power supply due to the limited capacity of Napocor's submarince cable connecting Panay to Negros.
Moncada added private power producers have no choice but to increase their rates since “we do not enjoy subsidy from the government.”
Under the Electric Power Industry Act, 70 percent of Napocor asset will be privatized by the end of this year.
But so far, Napocor has only disposed 14 percent of its plants which prompted Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla to extend the privatization program to March 31, 2006.
Slated to be privatized are the Pinamucan plant now based in Dingle, Iloilo, the Palimpinon hydrothermal plant in Negros Island and the power plant in Tongonan, Leyte.
Lapus also asked the support of the public in the return to Peco’s old rate “because we are all involved in this concern.”
“If we shut down the plant, there will be no power which I don’t think everybody wants,” Lapus said. (Published in The Guardian-Western Visayas, December 1, 2005)

Militants ‘hang’ selves on Boni day

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

In a novel and traffic-snarling manner of expressing dissent against the government, members of labor and urban poor groups hanged themselves near a mall at LaPaz, Iloilo city yesterday during the commemoration of the birth of national hero Andres Bonifacio.
The innovative protest-rally caught the fancy of shoppers, commuters and plain kibitzers who saw three persons – two males and a female – dangling the overpass of Gaisano City Mall yesterday morning.
The three were members of Bukluran ng Manggawang Pilipino and Partido Manggagawa.
To make a realistic dramatization of the hanging and also for the safety of the protesters and commuters alike, the organizers employed harnesses used by mountain climbers.
In a statement, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) chairman Zaldy Yebra stressed that hanging symbolized the workers’ sad plight under the “pro-capitalist atmosphere in the country."
“The Philippine labor sector is treacherously under attack on all fronts. We are being assaulted by the grave impact of the policies of trade liberalization, globalization and General Agreement on Tariff and Trade of World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO). We are also pounded by continuous repression of labor rights and welfare,” Yebra said.
“The workers’ situation in the country is at its worst,” he noted.
Yebra added “with the prevailing wage rates ranging from P200 to P325 while the daily cost of living for a family of six is estimated at P681, workers can barely survive.”
“The government’s package of non-wage benefits to enable workers cope with the grueling economic crunch is inadequate and arbitrary,” he clamored.
For the protesters, hanging does not only symbolize death but also the shame to the condemned man and his family.
But it seemed the protesters themselves could not stand the heat and strain of hanging in the air as they requested to be lowered to solid ground from time to time. The female protester even fainted out of sheer exhaustion. (Published in The Guardian-Western Visayas, December 1, 2005)