Razon group eyes Palawan electric cooperative next

By Myrna M. Velasco

Billionaire Enrique K. Razon is eyeing Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) as its next business conquest in the power distribution segment of the country’s restructured electricity sector.

Razon’s conglomerate is concretizing business takeover plan on the electric cooperative via a new bill in Congress for its MORE Reedbank to be granted a franchise for it to take hold of the Palawan power utility.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi acknowledged the plan of the Razon group on the Palawan electric cooperative takeover – and that Congress has been securing their inputs on that proposition.

“We were asked by Congress to comment. We are drafting one for submission,” the energy chief said.

It has to be noted that the MORE Electric and Power Company, which is another Razon-led group, is also in line to take over Panay Electric Company (PECO) in Iloilo.

These business forays will be part of the Razon group’s renewed plunge into the power sector – having originally been the concessionaire-firm for the privatized transmission company in 2009, but it eventually divested to the Sy group.

Last December, the Palawan electric cooperative has already been placed under the supervision of the government-run National Electrification Administration (NEA) following supply and electricity service distress that it has been evoking on consumers.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte had given PALECO the ultimatum on a prospective management takeover as of end-December 2018 if it will not shape up on its operations.

With the State temporarily taking the reins of PALECO, the NEA-designated acting manager Nelson Lalas has been directed “to manage the day-to-day operations of PALECO to ensure the efficient delivery of electric service to the member-consumer-owners.”

Palawan’s electricity services had been problematic since the start of last year and had worsened in succeeding months – with consumers in the area incessantly suffering from unwarranted power interruptions.

During his provincial sortie in Palawan last year, Duterte sternly warned that he “would get a new electricity provider for Palawan should the local officials fail to resolve the province’s energy issues.”

Following the President’s rage over developments in Palawan, NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong warned electric cooperatives – not just PALECO, to “step up efforts to improve reliability and quality of electricity service provision to rural areas.”

He added “the sentiments of the President should be taken as a challenge to PALECO and to all electric cooperatives in the country,” with him emphasizing further that “quality service is a must.”

PALECO is the sole electricity service provider in the island – covering Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, Araceli, Narra, Aborlan, Quezon, Balabac, Rizal, Brooke’s Point, Roxas, Taytay, Cuyo, Dumaran, Española, Magsaysay, Agutaya, Bataraza, San Vicente and Cagayancillo.