Blackout hits Albay due to unpaid P4B electric bill
Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - July 31, 2013 - 2:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — The entire province of Albay has been plunged into darkness after the national power grid operator cut off supply due to an accumulated debt of $93 million or about P4 billion.

The blackout that started Tuesday surprised residents of Albay, which is home to 1.2 million people.

"It's really dark at night. Since it is also rainy here, it is like during a typhoon," said health insurance company employee Cristie Recebido.

She said Wednesday that shops in the provincial capital Legazpi closed up early and hospitals and offices were running on generators.

The Department of Energy (DOE) said that a disconnection notice had been served to the Albay Electric Cooperative  (ALECO) because it failed to settle its current bill of P56 million to the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC).

In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda disclosed that ALECO has a total debt of P4 billion, in which around P1 billion is owed to PEMC.

The remaining P3 billion is owed to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, TransCo, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp (PSALM), and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

He said ALECO had to pay only the current P56-million bill while the collections on the P4 billion will be deferred, as agreed upon with Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla in meetings earlier this month.

"Yes it is a disconnection which we were able to hold at bay for 15 years with state-owned Napocor (National Power Corp.) and three years with private PEMC. I did my best," Salceda said.

Reconnection within two days

Salceda said he is working to resolve the problem and promised to restore electricity within two days. He said he was worried about the economic impact of the blackout on the industry.

The Albay governor said the Department of Energy (DOE) has imposed two conditions to ALECO: it has to disconnect 100 non-paying customers and implement a rehabilitation plan to solve its P1-billion debt to PEMC.

"I am working hard and pleading with energy authorities and corporate boards to secure an 'immediate selective reconnection' because a disconnection has inevitable disruptive economic impacts and bad signals on the Albay image to our national and global constituencies," said Salceda.

He said "immediate" means in "as early as two days" but "no more than one week" because the "poor who share no blame are made to pay for the sins of the oppressive rich who pursue unli-profit on the back of the ordinary working families."

In a statement, the DOE said it is "continuously assisting" ailing electric cooperatives (ECs) such as ALECO to ensure the continued power service to their consumers and resolve their accumulated arrearages due the power generators and transmission service provider.

"The DOE has been in constant talks with the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and the National Electrification Administration on finding ways to avoid disconnection as a result of ALECO's and other ECs' non-payment of power sourced from the generators through the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market," the agency said.

Powered restored on Wednesday

In his official Facebook page, Salceda he was told by Petilla in a text message that power supply will be reconnected by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"I have ordered reconnection of Albay to the grid by 5pm today after ALECO disconnected top 100 nonpaying customers," Petilla's message read.

According to the text message conversation of the two officials, there is still a balance of P19 million for ALECO's current billing.

The top 100 delinquent consumers have also been disconnected.- With The Associated Press

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