News Commentary

Napocor pulls plug on Aklan, Boracay

- Leo Solinap -
ILOILO CITY – The National Power Corp. (Napocor) pulled the plug on Aklan yesterday, throwing the province — including the popular Boracay beach resort — into darkness.

Napocor said it had no choice after power distributor Aklan Electric Cooperative (Akelco) failed to pay in full an initial remittance for its P105-million debt.

Akelco had been given until noon yesterday to remit P25 million to the state firm to avert power interruptions in the area, but the cooperative was only able to pay P15 million last Friday and nothing more.

"We were waiting for Akelco to pay the remaining P10 million, but there was no word from management. We have long given them the opportunities to address and prevent this. The problem is now with them," said Napocor officer-in-charge Roland Quilala.

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) is poised to take over power distribution for the entire province after Akelco was forced to shut down operations at 3 p.m. yesterday.

Energy Secretary and Napocor vice chairman Vincent Perez said that while the power firm fully understands the situation of electric cooperatives and the consumers in affected areas, it also has obligations and financial problems to contend with.

"This time, we want an assurance from cooperatives that they will diligently pay their bills," Perez said.

He said Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon agreed to the temporary disconnection in Aklan in the hope that it will lead to a long-term solution to the worsening electricity problem in Boracay, a premier tourist destination.

"He (Gordon) said the power interruption will result in some short-term inconveniences to the public, but he remains optimistic that the outcome from this drastic solution will be long-term, particularly in the attractiveness of Boracay as a tourist spot," Perez said.

Two weeks ago, resort owners, employees and residents staged a rally in Boracay to denounce poor service by Akelco. They complained that the resorts and other establishments in the world-renowned tourist destination have been greatly affected by shortage of power that has resulted in frequent voltage fluctuations and brownouts.

The crisis has forced the business sector and residents of Boracay to generate their own electricity.

"We anticipated this since Akelco has long rendered poor service to the island to the detriment of business in the province," said Jaime Coscolluela of the Boracay Foundation Inc. "Every day we have been experiencing outages as frequent as 20 times."

Nenette Graf of the Sand Castle Resort in Boracay said they will be heading to Kalibo for the turnover of power distribution operations to NEA.

Aklan has been suffering from frequent and long interruptions due to the technical and operational problems of Akelco.

Reports form NEA, which oversees the operations of electric cooperatives, show that the worsening management problems have affected Akelco’s operations. Akelco’s performance standing has dropped from category B to Category D in the last six years.

Napocor said it will now exercise stricter measures on its collection to help its financial position.

Apart from Akelco, seven other cooperatives have been served disconnection notices, namely: Masbate Electric Coop.; Tiaco Electric Coop.; Tawi-Tawi Electric Coop.; Cagayan de Sulu Electric Coop.; First Catanduanes Electric Coop.; Basilan Electric Coop. and Lanao del Sur Electric Coop.

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