ILIGAN CITY – Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo called on Congress Thursday, August 4, to remove four towns from the franchise of the debt-ridden Lanao del Sur Rural Electric Cooperative (Lasureco) and allow them to be served by another local power distributor.
The move, if approved by Congress, would avert a looming power crisis that could affect a population of 223,958 in parts of Lanao del Norte as a result of Lasureco’s debts to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM).
In June, then Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez greenlit PSALM’s plan to cut off Lasureco and the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative from the Mindanao power grid due to their delinquent payments that ballooned to billions of pesos.
Last-minute negotiations and a court order averted the PSALM plan.
In the case of Lasureco, Executive Judge Wenida Papandayan of the Regional Trial Court in Marawi City issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the planned disconnection.
Dimaporo said he was working to have the franchise of the Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Laneco) renewed but Lasureco initially opposed the inclusion of the towns of Pantao Ragat, Pantar, Baloi, and Tagoloan because of debts.
“Ang problema namin hinarang ni Lasureco iyong franchise bill ko in the last two Congresses dahil ang sinasabi nila na may utang ang apat na municipalities sa Lasureco (Lasureco opposed the franchise bill I filed in the last two Congresses because they said four towns have debts to Lasureco),” he said.
Dimaporo said he asked Lasureco for documents to prove that these four towns owe them but they failed to present them. “So, it will be very difficult to enforce unpaid electric bills without documentary support,” said Dimaporo.
These four Lanao del Norte towns are presently under the Lasureco franchise while Laneco is seeking to renew its franchise.
“Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative is a Triple A cooperative, why would we want our constituents be subjected to Lasureco which is the worst electric cooperative in the entire Philippines and the most debt-ridden electric cooperative in the Philippines,” Dimaporo said.
Dimaporo said it does not make sense that four Lanao del Norte towns are being served by a power distributor from another province.
Lasureco’s debts piled up through the years and ballooned to some P13 billion.
Tagoloan Mayor Mighty Dimakuta said that his town has no power supply to this day because of a boundary dispute that prevented Lasureco from setting up a line across Balo-i, Lanao del Norte.
Former Pantao Ragat Mayor Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud said the move to include her town in the Laneco franchise would likely result in a stable power supply in the municipality.
Lantud said Lasureco’s problems was due to the attitude of its member-consumers who were convinced that they were entitled to free electricity because Mindanao’s primary source of hydroelectric power is their lake – Lake Lanao.
“After several decades, they have not improved. The consumers there are not cooperative. They say that they own the lake, and therefore, they should not pay their electric bills,” she said.