Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bzzzzz: Cebu City might no longer buy its own, if national government would supply all vaccines... Sanggunian to meet ERC chief, Veco separately on power rates issue.

CEBU. IATF-MEID deputy implementer for Visayas retired general Mel Feliciano (left) and ERC chairperson Agnes Vicenta Torres-Devanadera (right). (SunStar File/Wikimedia Commons)

It could save a lot of money

CEBU City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, head of Vaccine Convenors and City Council presiding officer, was to deliver a privileged speech during the Sanggunian regular session Wednesday, May 19, to tell the councilors the “good news,” namely: the City Government may not have to buy anti-Covid vaccines of its own as it may get all the vaccines it needs from the national government.

Rama said retired general Mel Feliciano, IATF-MEID deputy implementer for Visayas, had promised that Cebu City's needs for the number of doses of the vaccines to achieve herd immunity in the city would be met by vaccines supply from Manila.

That would mean the City Government could save the P500 million it had planned to spend, P400 million of which had already been budgeted and approved. How about the P200 million initial order for which the mayor, as authorized by the City Council, had already issued a letter of intent to suppliers of two brands, Covovax and Covaxin? No supply agreement, which would seal the deal, had yet been signed.

Rama stepped down as presiding officer to give the privileged speech but he had to go to a vaccination site opening. The speech was not delivered.

But the City Council, trusting his information, deferred its talk scheduled at 4 p.m. that day via Zoom with a representative of Pfizer, among its activities to shop for vaccines.

The Rama speech would've given more details, which would've enabled the City Council to rate the chances of getting the rest of the vaccines for free. There would've been no sure-fire guarantee of getting the promise fulfilled.

But the City Council cannot just disregard the chance. Aside from possibly saving the P500-million budget for vaccines, it could get the rest of the vaccines needed to achieve herd immunity. Rama and his Vaccine Convenors earlier estimated the total cost of 1.4 million doses for 70 percent of the city population at P2 billion.


Series of Archival speeches

Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr. delivered the first of a promised series of privileged speeches relating to the City Council's inquiry into allegedly unreasonably high electricity rates.

It concerned Veco's power supply agreement with its generation company Cebu Private Power Corp. (CPPC) and the alleged failure to turn over a power plant (61.72 megawatts). Information not provided by Archival: the plant was supposed to be turned over already to Veco in 2013, the date of completion of the 15-year "build-operate-transfer" in 2013 and save the consumers the continuing fixed capacity charges. His point was that the cross ownership has caused the expensive electricity.

The Sanggunian, on Archival's motion, wanted to invite Agnes Vicenta Torres-Devanadera, chairperson of the five-member Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), to clarify its "mandate" and look into the PSA between Veco and CPPC.

Not mentioned by Archival was that the ERC held a virtual pre-hearing last April 27 on the appeal of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce to review the 2013 PSA. The chamber, as well as the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce had reportedly acted on the problem before the Cebu City Council did, last May 5.

If ERC chief wouldn't show up

A corollary motion to have a Veco official appear with the ERC chairperson was shot down. Both Archival and Councilor Joy Young said it would be better for the Sanggunian to talk with them separately.

Each would take time, said Archival, and Veco would just dispute information adverse to it, said Young.

What if Devanadera would not show up and just have a representative, maybe the officer-in-charge of its Visayas field office, Atty. Joel Bontuyan? That was unresolved. So was the question whether a commissioner could talk before the City Council on an issue that is litigated before the commission.


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