Hierarchy of loyalties

Published February 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

J. Albert Gamboa
J. Albert Gamboa

“My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.” These were the words of Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon in the 1930s, and they still ring true up to this day and age.

I got reminded of this famous quotation when my friend attended a public hearing at the House of Representatives last week. The committee on good government and public accountability conducted the hearing jointly with the committee on public accounts to discuss the plans and programs of the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding power sufficiency and sustainability.

Also in attendance were officials from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. or PSALM, led by its president Irene Garcia. PSALM is the DOE’s attached agency in charge of ensuring policy and program coordination as well as general supervision of energy-related government activities. It has also been tasked to manage the existing debts of another DOE attached agency, the National Power Corp. or NAPOCOR.

During the hearing, Garcia was questioned about what PSALM is doing to collect more than P100 billion in receivables from independent power producer administrators or IPPAs. She explained that P70.2 billion had already been collected as of end-2019, but P33.6 billion remains uncollected from delinquent IPPAs, the biggest of which is South Premiere Power Corp. (SPPC).

A subsidiary of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), SPPC owes PSALM P24.6 billion. It has refused to pay the debt and instead filed a case before the Mandaluyong Regional Trial court asserting a different formula for computing its payables to PSALM.

But Garcia said SPPC’s continued non-payment will compel PSALM to contract new borrowings to liquidate NAPOCOR’s maturing obligations and lead to “a vicious cycle that will result in PSALM absorbing additional interests and other finance charges” to the tune of P1 billion in borrowing costs per year which could go a long way in building new roads and modern agricultural facilities for the country’s farmers.

Curiously, the hearing did not involve the House committee on energy despite the fact that the issues being discussed were right down its alley. And this leads back to Quezon’s quotable quote that could now be further paraphrased: “My loyalty to my country ends where my loyalty to my patron begins.”

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