Power industry helpless against inflation

By Herbert Vego

THIS month of November, we electricity consumers are bound to pay higher bills, unless we have drastically reduced consumption – as in keeping the air-conditioner off, using a lesser number of low-voltage lights, spending lesser hours TV-viewing, and eliminating karaoke-singing.

But, of course, probably as a knee-jerk response, some of us immediately blame the distribution utilities (DUs) for whatever price adjustments traceable to other causes. DUs refer to the power distributors, such as the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO 1, 2 and 3), Antique Electric Co-op (ANTECO), Capiz Electric Co-op (CAPELCO), Aklan Electric Co-op (AKELCO) and MORE Power in Iloilo City, among others nationwide.

These DUs all point to the sudden increases in the prices of oil and coal in the world market as the culprit. While there are cheaper “renewables” from geothermal and wind sources, they are too scarce to fill the need.

The DUs, however, do not generate electricity.  They merely serve as distributors of electricity produced by the generating plants – such as Panay Power Corp, Palm Concepcion Power Corp, Panay Energy Development Corp and Sem-Calaca Power Corp. – and transmitted to the DUs via the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

Each DU is bound to abide by provisions of contract with power-generating plant/plants which have passed the competitive selection process

The inflated price of coal from US $60 to $400 per metric ton in the world market is touted to be the reason behind the “domino effect” on generating plants.

In three issues of this column, this writer questioned the move of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) – the only producer of coal in Western Visayas — for adhering to the “world market price” in dealing with local generating plants.

SMPC mines coal 24 hours a day at Semirara, a barangay island in Caluya, Antique.

Surpassingly, the politicians of the province – notably Sen. Loren Legarda, Governor Rhodora Cadiao and Rep. AA Legarda – have failed to convince SMPC to moderate its profiteering. To reiterate, by its management’s admission, Semirara earned a record-high profit of ₱36 billion in the first three quarters of this year – a giant leap from ₱10.3 billion in the corresponding period in 2021.

Hardest-hit by the coal “avalanche” is the Antique Electric Cooperative (Anteco). As of October, it was charging the highest power bill in Western Visayas at P16.17 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

In contrast, Iloilo City’s Sangguniang Panlungsod member Romel Duron recently filed a resolution requesting SMPC to “prioritize the supply of coal and power to local generation and distribution companies at reasonable rates in Panay Island.”

It is therefore not only for the benefit of MORE Power customers but of those of other DUs as well.  Unfortunately, no action so far.

Because of differences in charges being billed by the DUs to the end energy users, however, the latter have imbibed the wrong notion that the DUs are responsible for imposing different rates on per-kilowatt-hour basis.

In the case of MORE Power, as posted on its Facebook page, it would not stand to benefit from the additional two pesos imposable for distribution, supply and metering charges. The extra charges collected would be forwarded to power suppliers, generation plants and the transmission grid, plus taxes and other charges imposed by the government.

In other words, the “crucified” DUs double as collecting agents for the above-named entities.

-oOo-

A FAMOUS ANTIQUEÑO COMES HOME

OUR good friend Annabel Petinglay — head of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in San Jose, Antique – informed us about the arrival of the ashes of her uncle, Ramon “Marmon” Maza, Jr., tomorrow (Nov. 24). He had died while still actively pursuing productive life in the United States.

His ashes will be buries with necro service at the Sibalom Cemetery Friday morning.

He would have turned 95 last November 1.

Maza was a son of a famous dad, the late Atty. Ramon O. Maza Sr., who was twice elected congressman of Antique (from 1916 to 1922) during the Commonwealth period.

I remember Maninoy Marmon, a lawyer and brother of Maninay Sefa, as the first man to help me get a job. A native of Sibalom, Antique, he was the chief of staff of the late Congressman Tobias Fornier and later of the latter’s late brother, Cong. Jose Fornier.

Due to his strong recommendation, I landed my first job as mail sorter at the Foreign Mails Division of the Bureau of Post at the Manila International Airport in 1967. He wished me well in my pursuit of a Journalism course.

On retiring from government service, he flew to the United States for lucrative private jobs.  Unwilling to spend idle moments in old age, he never quit and stayed active until he was just strong enough to open the door as the respectable doorman of a five-star hotel in New York City (if I remember right).

He was a cousin-in-law of our friend and media colleague Atty. Pet Melliza.

Welcome home Maninoy Marmon and condolences to the bereaved family.

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