Darkness looms in Albay town over P32-M unpaid power bills

Published May 11, 2021, 8:25 AM

by Philippine News Agency

LEGAZPI CITY – The island town of Rapu-Rapu in Albay will plunge into darkness on Saturday unless it pays at least P15 million of the total P32 million it owes private distributor Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC).
This, as APEC has threatened to cut off the town’s power supply if it fails to settle its power bills that have piled up after some seven years, Pat Gutierrez, APEC spokesperson said.
In a phone interview on Monday, Gutierrez said the island town has a cumulative P32 million of unpaid bills since 2014, when APEC took over the management of the debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO).
Dennis Ilan, APEC deputy general manager, on May 4 requested the National Power Corporation (NPC) Bicol Operation Division to cut off power services in the island town for its failure to pay its outstanding bill despite the repeated call to thousands of consumers to settle their account.
Ilan, in his letter, said the non-payment of bills by the consumers may result in accumulated arrearages the APEC could incur that would have a serious impact on the company’s ability to pay its NPC-Small Power Utility Group (NPC-SPUG) account.
APEC is paying P2 million monthly in power bills to NPC for providing diesel-fed power to the island town with 1,700 energy consumers and 72 Barangay Power Associations (BPAs).
Rapu-Rapu Mayor Ronald Galicia, in a separate interview, said APEC is partly to blame for the accumulated amount of unpaid bills because of its poor collection system in the town. He said there are only three accredited collection centers in the town that accept power bill payments, causing inconvenience and difficulties to consumers in all the 34 villages.
Galicia said he has called on villagers with outstanding power bills to settle their accounts before the given deadline or face the consequence of a power blackout.
He also requested the APEC for consideration and to allow consumers to pay their outstanding balance on an installment basis.
For his part, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said he has already asked local officials to urge residents to pay their dues, and proposed that the town cashier’s office to be temporarily converted into a payment center for power consumers.