BACOLOD City Mayor Evelio Leonardia has appealed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to immediately look into the increase in power rates among areas catered by the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco).
Leonardia also sought the help of ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera regarding the damaged portion of the submarine cable of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Amlan town, Negros Oriental since June this year that consequently cut off the island's power supply from Cebu.
The mayor said other electric cooperatives in Negros and Panay Islands were also forced to increase their power rates as well when a team from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was said to have caused the damage on the NGCP cable while performing underwater drilling operations.
"Information probably already reached your good office that workers of the DPWH accidentally damaged the submarine cable of the NGCP in Amlan town, Negros Oriental sometime in June this year," Leonardia told Devanadera in his September 1 letter, a copy of which was released to the media only on Friday, September 17.
With the incident, the Bacolod mayor continued transmission of power supply from Cebu to nine Negros and Panay-based electric cooperatives or distribution utilities (DUs) had also stopped.
This prompted the NGCP to activate its expensive-to-operate diesel–powered plants to cover the requirements of the cooperatives in the region which serve a total population of close to 8 million people, he said.
Leonardia said sourcing out supply from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (Wesm) to avoid massive outages resulted to the spiraling cost of power which the utility firms consequently passed on to consumers, further causing additional burden on the people, who have yet to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last one year-and-a-half.
The exorbitant rate is reflected in their August 2021 billing, he added.
"Electric cooperatives, too, have no choice but to ensure that supply is stable even if they have to source it out from the high-priced Wesm rate that also charges line rental and related administrative cost, among others," he told Devanadera.
In the Ceneco service areas, comprised of Bacolod City and five other adjacent local government units, for example, the rates were up from a low of P9 to a whooping P30 per kilowatt hour (kWh) since the damage on the submarine cable happened, Leonardia said citing the explanation of the utility’s executives.
Before the incident, the rate per kWh averaged only to at least P4 to P5, they said.
Similar sentiments had been expressed by consumers from eight electric coops in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Panay provinces, he noted.
It is for this reason, Leonardia further explained, that he wrote Devanadera regarding this pressing concern with high hopes that the ERC would be able to identify possible interventions that will result to the lowering of power rates to give some degree of relief to consumers who are still facing a lot of difficulties in the face of the current health crisis.
Leonardia also hoped that the NGCP and DPWH would be able to fix the damaged portion of the submarine cable the soonest time possible and not wait until January 2022 as indicated earlier so as not to further prolong the woes of the consuming public.
Leonardia furnished Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, copies of his letter to the ERC chief. (PR)