Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) Party-list Rep. Sergio Dagooc is demanding the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to settle the P14.5 million in unpaid bills that it owes to some 30 electric cooperatives.
Dagooc raised the issu during the House plenary debate on the Department of National Defense’s (DND) proposed 2023 budget on Friday night, Sept. 23.
Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairperson Negros Occidental 6th district Rep. Mercedes Alvarez sponsored and defended the DND budget on the plenary floor.
“Are you still practicing in the armed forces, the so-called palabra de honor (word of honor)? Are you still practicing that?” Dagooc innocently asked Alvarez, to which the latter answered, “Yes.”
“If you are practicing, why for the last three years, palagi na natin pinag-usapan na bayaran ninyo yung mga electric cooperatives doon sa mga kampo ninyo? (we’ve always been asking you to pay the electric cooperatives at your camps?) Bakit hanggang ngayon–ayaw ko nang ulitin, di ba sabi ko kanina, ayaw ko nang ulitin? (Why haven’t you paid up to now, as I told you, I don’t want to repeat it anymore),” he said.
“Kaya tinatanong ko if you’re still practicing palabra de honor. Sabi ninyo inyong babayaran? (That’s why I asked if you’re still practicing word of honor. You said you were going to pay up?)” Dagooc noted.
He said that of the 30 electric cooperatives that he surveyed, the biggest single unpaid bill worth P2.1 million came from Zamcelco in Zamboanga City, in the 2nd district, which is where House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe hails from.
“Itong amount nato, napakalaki na ito sa isang electric cooperative (To an electric cooperative, this amount is already huge),” he said, adding that electric cooperatives are mere distribution utilities (DUs) that also need to pay for purchased electricity.
“Mayroon pong hindi nasasahuran dahil inuna muna yung pambayad sa planta, ginamit po yung pangsahod (There are workers who don’t get their salaries on time because the payroll money gets diverted to the payment for power plants),” explained Dagooc.
Acknowledging the DND’s non-payment of electricity bills, Alvarez said, “Usually the bills are received very late especially during the yearend.”
“I beg to disagree, I am a general manager…of two electric cooperatives and we are billing on time,” Dagooc quickly countered.
“In the case of Zamcelco, I’ve been there assigned as task force and I saw, I go with the coop collector…I have plenty of AFP members, which are my relatives. Alam ko po (I know what goes on)…Sabay-sabay po na bini-bill lahat ng consumers (All consumers are billed at the same time).”
The sponsor replied, “The DND commits to pay whatever bills that are still unpaid. There are also incidents sometimes…that delays are caused by movement of some units on the field.”
Dagooc shot down the excuse again. “I don’t think so. I beg to disagree again, with all due respect because only the troops are moving, not the camps. For example in Zamboanga, are you moving out the camps there?”
The APEC Party-list solon hinted that the total unpaid bills of the AFP could be bigger since there are 121 electric cooperatives in the Philippines.
“For the interest of time, I am demanding…that before the end of the deliberation on the [P5.268-trillion national] budget on Sept. 28, kindly settle all your obligations in the different camps of the country. Settle please, kasi 30 coops pa lang ito, P14.5 million na (these are just 30 coops and the bill is already P14.5 million),” Dagooc told Alvarez.
“Yes…the department commits to pay their bills,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said that the AFP spent P392 million and P403.9 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively for its electricity expenses. She said that the AFP’s budget for electricity this year is P403 million.
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