Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Marinduque Elections: OMINOUS!

Election Power Issue and Marelco.

At the height of last year’s power outages when hearings conducted by the provincial council were held, in one such hearing it will be recalled that the source of many conflicting information being conveyed to the power stakeholders were sourced from Marelco itself.

But all had to do with the failed contract between Marelco and 3i Powergen, the supposed new power provider. Said contract stipulated that by February 2007, commercial operation of 3i Powergen in Marinduque should be in full swing, but was never realized and, never will be.

Marelco, has openly presented itself as a cooperative yet, to this day, has rejected the idea of registration with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), that would have enabled it to run as a stock-cooperative.

CDA registration would have qualified Marelco to be exempt from VAT charges effectively reducing the cost of electric bills that would be beneficial to all subscribers. Yet it wants to stay as a non-stock, non-profit enterprise existing under a Presidential Decree (PD 269 was issued during the Marcos administration. Marelco budget is approved by NEA and in 2009 the approved budget was P 280-million.)

Then it turned out that an amount of P 47-million VAT collected from subscribers, and continues to be collected, was never paid to the tax authorities. A claim was made during a public hearing at the capitol that the said millions were spent to rehabilitate the electrical installations damaged by typhoon “Reming” in December 2006, “a judgement call” according to Marelco.

Marelco as it turned out had no authority to use the money (placed at P 42-million), for that purpose. This fact was aggravated by a claim from concerned Marelco employees and conveyed during a hearing conducted by the Energy Regulatory Commission that in truth, financial assistance to the tune of P 32-million for the same purpose was allocated to the electric company by the National Electrification Administration.

Now in addition to VAT payables Marelco has accumulated millions of pesos in overdue power account with Napocor and current account for some P 10-Million.

But who really owns and/or controls Marelco?

No one’s willing to provide a categorical answer to this question because the culture of secrecy that has characterized this electric company has pervaded for three decades. What we know is the fact that electric companies under this category are subject to the whims and caprices of any government entity and/or political figures.

No less than the chair of the Energy Committee of Congress, Cong. Magsaysay stressed this point on the need for electric cooperatives to register under CDA. Marelco is not exempt from such political pressures and from the looks of it determined to keep the status quo. (It should be noted that Marelco manager, Eduardo Bueno is the husband of NEA administrator, Edita S. Bueno).

To see an end to it depends largely on the outcome of this year's (this Monday's) local elections in Marinduque, where, the miracle of an opportunity for all to see the light looms clearly. But how many of our poor people comprising about 50% of the population perceive these realities?

The result of the elections could lead to decisive moves to be undertaken by all power stakeholders for all of us to finally see the light. Least Marinduque will remain in darkness for a long, long while, swimming deeper still in a quagmire of probably deserved helplessness, further exploitation, higher power rates.

Election. Ominous signs around, Marelco gears up.

What do we see and hear?

Some Marelco bill collectors have gone around from house to house in interior barangays wearing yellow Reyes campaign T-shirts, actively campaigning for the Reyes tandem (Edmund Reyes for Congressman-Carmencita Reyes for Governor), who are known to control Marelco, and blaming Gov. Carrion for the recent brownouts because “sino ba ang ama ng lalawigan?”

After Marelco's assurance that no power outages would occur, especially from May 3rd when the PCOS machines are scheduled to be delivered to the local poll precincts until May 12th when the political exercise is assumed to have been completed, there are still unscheduled power outages being effected on a selective basis, it appears.

Marelco remains vague and cryptic to inquiries from callers with their responses ranging from “hindi pa dumadating ang lineman namin kaya hindi pa namin alam”, to “wala pa po si manager Bueno kaya hindi namin alam”, “sa Napocor po ang problema”, to “mga falling palapa (coconut fronds) in places in Gasan ang cause ng brownout”.

The last quote was from Bueno himself (April 27), one inconsistent with Napocor findings that the specific episode in question and conveyed to this blogger was traced to “tripping in the Ihatub area”.


By design?

Keen political observers maintain that brownouts occur in areas where opponents of the Reyes tandem are holding election campaign activities like concerts and meetings (Buenavista, Gasan), but not in areas where the Reyes party are holding theirs.

When the Lakas-Kampi-CMD miting de avance was held in Buenavista the other night two power interruptions occurred there lasting more than an hour each. Good thing the party had back-up generators. No brownout occurred in Boac, meanwhile.

Quote: “Matagal na namang alam ng mga tao na nagagamit ng mga pulitiko ang Marelco kung gusto nilang patayin ang ilaw sa alin mang areas na gustuhin”. Right or wrong?

“Contingency Measure”

During the meeting held on April 22 at the capitol, Bueno bragged about a contingency measure involving the deployment of more than a hundred of its linemen who’d be available “on call” in all barangays in the event of brownouts.

There seems good reason for one to be wary of such contingency measures in the event of brownouts caused by “falling palapa hitting power lines”. What other things if any, official or unofficial, are the diligent linemen supposed to undertake?

Power Outage in Gasan this Minute!

There's power outage in Gasan right now as I write this. Boac uninterrupted. Called up Marelco minutes ago to ask what was the cause of the brownout. The response was "hindi po namin alam", called up again and the response was "due to emergency shutdown in Bantad".

There are seriously increasing dots to connect on the hour, every hour now... read Warning Sign.

Marinduqueno, be vigilant. And be brave.

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