Sitio electrification falls short of target due to budget lack

The goal of the Duterte administration to complete electrification of all sitios within the service domain of the electric cooperatives (ECs) would fall short of target because of deficient budget allocation by the national government.

In a briefing with reporters, Sonia B. San Diego, deputy administrator for Corporate Resources and Financial Services of the National Electrification Administration (NEA), indicated that the allocation of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for sitio electrification this year was at P1.627 billion and that could just energize 1,085 sitios.

NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong qualified that if the 12,000 targeted sitios will have to be completely electrified next year, the required funding will be as much as P18 billion; hence, the DBM-earmarked budget would be way below the total amount needed.

For next year, the national government also recommended the same scale of budget for electrification – which is at P1.627 billion, and such development has not been lifting hopes when it comes to completion of the government’s electrification program.

“If we will connect the sitios to the grid, the prospects will be dim, because our data would show that we still have more or less 12,000 sitios that need to be connected to the grid,” Masongsong said.

He added that the cost of connecting one sitio to the grid would be at P1.5 million; hence, the aggregate financing requirement of the 12,000 sitios will be as much as P18 billion – which the State cannot afford to fork out at this point given the financial distress that plagued the country because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If we talk about constructing lines for all the remaining 12,000 sitios – that is P1.5 million per sitio on average, maybe we need P18 billion. But of course, we need to understand the situation of our national government,” the NEA chief stressed.

A sitio is a unit of a barangay (village) – and these are often located in relatively far-flung areas, hence, providing electricity access to consumers on these domains would entail heftier capital outlay and there could also be higher degree of physical constraints in connecting them to the grid.

San Diego pointed out that given probable missed target on electrification, “what our technical services have been prioritizing are the sitios with low level of electrification, like in Mindanao areas.”

Masongsong expounded though that when it comes to household electrification, the performance of the country’s electric cooperatives had been considerably outstanding – because out of the 14.34 million households to be provided with electricity access, around 14.25 million customers had already been connected as of reckoning date this year.

But he specified that such household connection target was still based on 2015 census; and with the updating on the country’s statistics on population, that could have expanded way bigger by now.

“If we’ll just talk about giving access to all households, we’re almost done per census as of 2015,” Masongsong said, albeit he stated that they don’t have exact data yet on the additional households for connection based on the updated 2020 population census.