Power outages loom, solon warns, as Napocor, DBM fail to get act together

Published November 10, 2022, 5:17 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

A lingering disconnect between the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Power Corporation (Napocor) over the latter’s 2023 budget allocation could lead to very unsavory consequences for Filipinos.

(Amie Johnson/ Unsplash)

Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza warned that Small Power Utility Group generation companies (SPUG gencos) are racing against time, waiting for the Napocor to settle its accounts with suppliers before power outages ensue in the so-called Missionary Electrification Areas.

Before long, these SPUG gencos won’t have enough fuel supply to keep its power plants and barges running.

“These ‘missionary areas’ under the responsibility of SPUG gencos can be found in 34 provinces. If power plants servicing these areas are not provided with a steady, reliable supply of diesel fuel, then approximately 900,000 Filipino households may be plunged into total darkness by July,” Daza said.

“Let us be reminded of who and what gets sidelined when power supply comes up short: students, employees, economic opportunities, and the modern quality of living of our fellow Filipinos,” he added, before pressing the need to look into the matter of improved coordination between the Napocor and DBM.

“Developments on this issue, regrettably, have slowed down and devolved into a he-said-she-said situation between the Napocor and DBM,” the House leader lamented.

Daza pointed out that fuel suppliers have been reluctant to continue working with the [Napocor] after it racked up unpaid obligations, which added up “to the tune of P1 billion pesos,” he noted.

SPUG gencos, under Republic Act (RA) No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in 2001, are third-party power plant operators tapped by the Napocor for Missionary Electrification Areas, which are areas not connected to the country’s major power grids.

The Napocor in its 2023 budget proposal initially requested P45 billion, which it then found was allegedly slashed to P32 billion by the DBM. In response, the Napocor warned that this budget cut would further aggravate the company’s unpaid debt situation with fuel suppliers, and lead to power plant shutdowns.

The DBM countered that Napocor’s Corporate Operating Budget was not reduced, and that the subsidy portion in their budget was actually raised from P3.8 billion to P5.07 billion.

Moreover, the department ostensibly approved the release of a P2.9 billion Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to Napocor, on top of an existing P1.02 billion issued for SPUG gencos in particular.

Daza called for “a detailed breakdown from the [Napocor] of its SPUG genco funding requirements and transactions”, and on the other hand, also urged his fellow lawmakers to “ascertain if the budget allocated to the sound operation of SPUG gencos are appropriate and utilized”.

“It is with these matters that we must truly exercise unity, and ensure that the lights stay on in every Filipino household,” he concluded.