Bacolod mayor seeks ERC help on power rate hike

BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Evelio Leonardia has appealed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to immediately look into the increase in power rates in service areas under the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco).

This, after other electric cooperatives in Negros and Panay islands were reportedly forced to increase their power rates as well after a team from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) accidentally damaged the submarine cable of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) while performing underwater drilling operations in Amlan town, Negros Oriental sometime in June this year.

With the incident, the mayor said that transmission of power supply from Cebu to nine Negros and Panay-based electric cooperatives or distribution utilities (DUs) had also stopped, prompting the NGCP to activate its expensive-to-operate diesel–powered plants to cover the requirements of the cooperatives in the region which serve a total population of close to 8 million people.

Leonardia said that sourcing out supply via the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to avoid massive outages resulted to the spiraling cost of power which the utility firms consequently passed on to consumers, further causing additional burden on the people, who have yet to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the last one year-and-a-half.

The exorbitant rate is reflected in their August 2021 billing, he added.

Leonardia noted that same sentiments had been expressed by consumers from eight electric cooperatives in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Panay provinces.

Leonardia, in his letter to ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera, noted that electric cooperatives, too, have no choice but to ensure that supply is stable even if they have to source it out from high-priced WESM rate that also charges line rental and related administrative cost, among others.

In the Ceneco service areas, comprised of Bacolod and five other adjacent local government units, for example, the rates were up from a low of P9++ to a whooping P30 per kilowatt-hour since the damage on the submarine cable happened. Before the incident, the rate per kwh averaged only between P4 to P5++, Leonardia cited an explanation from the coop.

Leonardia said that he wrote Devanadera regarding this pressing concern with high hopes that the ERC would be able to identify possible interventions that will result to the lowering of power rates to give some degree of relief to consumers who are still facing a lot of difficulties in the face of the current health crisis.

Leonardia also hoped that the NGCP and the DPWH would be able to fix the damaged portion of the submarine cable the soonest time possible and not wait until January 2022 as indicated earlier so as not to further prolong the woes of the consuming public.