Funds for power

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


A CEBUANO representative urged Congress to support at least two power cooperatives, otherwise consumers might end up paying for loans obtained to restore power lines and facilities damaged by Yolanda.

In a speech he delivered before the House of Representatives adjourned for the holidays, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, Fourth District) said this is the time to use the Malampaya funds, otherwise clients of the Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) 2 and Bantayan Electric Cooperative (Banelco) will end up paying for the loans.

“After all, Mr. Speaker, the Malampaya funds were intended for the development of the energy sector,” said the congressman, whose district suffered the most in Cebu when typhoon Yolanda struck last Nov. 8.

The Malampaya funds—the government’s share of revenues from a gas project, estimated at P137 billion as of last October—became controversial after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee found that part of it allegedly went to dubious non-government organizations set up by Janet Lim-Napoles.

‘Unimaginable’

The Supreme Court recently ruled the Malampaya funds can be used only for energy-related projects.

Salimbangon said the power sector in northern Cebu suffered “unimaginable damage”.

As of yesterday, parts of five regions continued to report power outages, according to the national disaster council.

Salimbangon thanked Cebeco 1, 2 and 3, as well as the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) and the Aboitiz Group, for restoring power to northern Cebu before last Christmas Day.

“But all this damage that Cebeco 2 and Banelco and all the other electric cooperatives suffered were not restored without cost. It cost millions of pesos, Mr. Speaker. Who will shoulder this cost of repair?” the congressman said.

‘Spare the people’

“It will be too much for our people to be added the burden of paying for the restoration of power,” Salimbangon said.

Engineer Gannymede Tiu, Cebeco 2 general manager, said the total damage incurred by Cebeco 2 has reached P158 million. The cooperative submitted its assessment to the National Electrification Administration last week, he added.

The storm destroyed distribution lines, 69-kilovolt (KV) transmission lines, distribution transformers, kilowatt hour (KwH) meters, service drop wires, and other equipment such as automatic voltage regulators, protective relays and instrument transformers.

Tiu added that there are also facilities such as buildings, warehouses and multi-purpose centers that Yolanda also destroyed.

“We applied for P100 million from NEA and the agency released P30 million one week after typhoon Yolanda hit northern Cebu. The other P70 million will be released soon,” Tiu said.

He said Cebeco 2 covers 10 towns (Compostela, Carmen, Catmon, Sogod, Tabogon, Medellin, Daanbantayan, San Remegio, Tabuelan and Tuburan) and the cities of Danao and Bogo, with a total of 121,000 household power connections.

Storm’s toll

Daanbantayan’s power infrastructure suffered the most, with 100 percent damage, followed by Medellin with 95 percent damage, San Remegio, Tabogon and Bogo City with 85 percent damage and Tabuelan with 60 percent damage. (Daanbantayan was one of two points in Cebu where Yolanda made landfall last Nov. 8, the other being Bantayan Island.)

Of the total member-consumers, about 1,000 of them still have no electricity, but Cebeco 2 personnel are working on restoring these soon, Tiu said.

“All backbone lines and lateral lines are back in operation,” he added.

Government has released P1.25 billion so far in relief aid, most of it from the social welfare department. But Yolanda damaged at least P36.6 billion in agriculture and infrastructure, the national disaster council said in its situation report yesterday.

Yolanda claimed 6,155 lives, with 28,626 others injured. A total of 1,785 remained missing. All told, the typhoon affected 16 million persons, driving about four million away from their destroyed or exposed homes.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 31, 2013.

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