Albay Power debt balloons to P5.6B in 2 years

by Manly UgaldeAugust 14, 2016

from Business Mirror

LEGAZPI CITY—The P4-billion outstanding loan inherited by San Miguel Corp.(SMC)-owned Albay Power and Energy Corp. (Apec) has ballooned to P5.6 billion more than two years after its acquisition of the ailing Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco).

Due to an inefficient-collection system, SMC is considering acceptance of the services of Meralco as service provider for Albay, said Manuel Imperial, Apec general manager. Apec took over Aleco in January 2014.

Imperial said he has yet to receive a final notice on whether the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) would come in. He said Meralco’s role would be limited to the massive disconnection of thousands of delinquent accounts, perpetrated fraudulently under the old Aleco system. As a service provider, Meralco will handle the clearing and improvement of power lines.

Imperial said when Apec took over in January 2014, its data base appeared to have been sabotaged and that only around 40,000 of the 225,000 consumers were found in the database.

SMC won in a bidding to acquire Aleco in 2013, besting four other of the country’s leading power companies. Aleco was the first to privatize, a move strongly opposed by Aleco Employees Organization (Aleo). Aleo continues to boycott Aleco services, including the collection of unpaid bills.

Described as a “problem” cooperative, local government units and five Albay lawmakers were unanimous in supporting the National Electrification Administration and Malacañang in their move to privatize Aleco as the only option to save it from total collapse.

Imperial said Apec has a standing debt of P1.6 billion to San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC) involving power supply, while Apec collectibles stand at P1.2 billion. He said the outstanding Aleco loan of P4 billion inherited by Apec remains unsettled.

Imperial said of the 225,000 Albay consumers, however, 185,000 connection lines were not found in the database. Collections during the first year of operation involved only 40,000 consumers. They could not send monthly billings to the others.

As a result of this, Apec’s unbilled consumers were given the opportunity to settle their account one by one on a monthly basis.

Early last year  Apec began disconnecting delinquent consumers supportive of the boycott move, however, they are immediately reconnected by the separated old Aleco employees.

About 70 Aleco union members dismissed in 2013 won a labor case versus Aleco that a return-to-work order (RTWO) was issued to them by the Department of Labor in February 2014. Apec, however, refused to reinstate them, asserting separation pay awaits them.

Aleco union Vice President Ephraim de Vera said, with the RTWO, they have not been paid their salaries and back wages since 2013. As legitimate employees under the RTWO, they cannot refuse consumers’ request for reconnection of their Apec unjustly disconnected lines under the consumers Magna Carta law.

Imperial said they were able to slowly uncover the missing power connections in the database. He said many of them do not even have meters, and 30,000 more may be recovered once Meralco service steps in. He said Apec is preparing legal options against the thousands of delinquent consumers who had refused to report to Apec their connection lines.