By Myrna M. Velasco
The bid for ‘indefinite extension’ on the payment of dues of the Philippine electric cooperatives (ECs) was endorsed and backed by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) following the government’s announcement of lockdown extension in Luzon.
The financial obligations that the power utilities want to be given ‘indefinite leeway’ are those with the power generation companies (GenCos) that have been supplying them with power; as well as with transmission firm operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that has been servicing the capacity wheeling of generated electricity into their load networks.
NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong has formally recommended the plea of the ECs in separate sets of correspondence to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera.
“NEA endorsed the appeal of ECs to extend the deadline of their payment of dues and remittances to power generation companies and transmission companies indefinitely, or until the state of their business operations normalizes,” the electrification agency has noted.
As noted by NEA, the collection efficiency of the ECs dropped sharply due to the escalating predicament of the country over the unceasing spread of the novel coronavirus that virtually halted businesses and other socio-economic activities in the country.
Such conundrum, the electrification agency emphasized, had affected the financial ability of the ECs to settle their accounts with their power suppliers, transmission firm and other entities in the supply chain.
Masongsong formally asked the energy department and the ERC’s imprimatur for the ECs’ payment
period “to be extended, not just for 30 days after April 14, 2020 – but until such time that the operations of the ECs have normalized and stabilized.”
It was on March 26 that the ERC issued its advisory on the 30-day extension on the ECs payments without interest and penalties – and that supposedly covered the settlement of fees and dues from March 15 to April 14, the initial duration of the Luzon lockdown.
Nevertheless, according to Masongsong, most of the ECs already paid their monthly billings within the March 15-April 14 span, as power cooperatives “usually pay their dues ahead of schedule to avail of the early payment discount.”
Beyond that, the NEA chief noted that the ECs “will have difficulty covering this billing cycle due to limited collection from March 15 to April 14,” and the situation is being aggravated by the declared enhanced community quarantine extension of 15 days or until April 30.
The agency stipulated that based on its monitoring, there are over 90 electric co¬operatives in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that so far granted 30-day grace period for their consumers to settle electricity bills. That is on top of the cancellation of surcharges and power disconnections for those who failed to pay on time.
As Masongsong expounded, “the ECs now mostly rely on residential consumers, as the extensive quarantines imposed across Luzon and other parts of the country prompted the closure of big establishments, resulting in significant reduction of power demand.