Participants of the public forum “Luz: Que Pasa?” agreed that one of the biggest challenge in the city’s power shortage problem is a lack of transparency by the local power distributor.
The forum was a stakeholder analysis of the power problem in Zamboanga City, It was held on August 11, 2015 at Royce Convention Center, Grand Astoria Hotel, Zamboanga City.
To help address this problem, forum participants formed a multisectoral group to spearhead efforts to improve transparency between the local power distributor Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (ZAMCELZO) and power consumers.
Since the forum, the multisectoral group has met twice, organizing themselves and planning courses of action. The group consists of representatives of various civil society organizations, the academe, and religious groups. The National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (NASECORE) is represented as well.
Luz: Que Pasa was organized by SACSI in partnership with NASECORE to gather stakeholders and together analyze and understand why the city continues to suffer from power shortages.
In his opening statement, ADZU president Fr. Karel San Juan SJ stressed that “We just don’t act and act without understanding”.
The day-long event was divided into three parts: information and education, stakeholders’ analysis, and a forum with a panel of reactors.
Resource persons in the information and education segment were NASECORE president Petronilo L. Ilagan who discussed the EPIRA Law. Ilagan pointed out that the EPIRA Law assures consumers of the quality, security, affordability and reliability of power.
Atty. Francisco Jose S. Villa, head of Planning and Information Service of the the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) discussed rate setting and rate regulation. Engr. Ranilo E. Maatubang, also of ERC, discussed system loss.
Maatubang presented the history of ZAMCELCO’s system losses, both technical and non-technical, as well as how ERC does billing and compensation.
Experts from the Department of Energy gave talks as well. Thelma Ejercito, head of the Power Planning Division and Engr. Beejee Deguina of the Power Planning and Development Division presented the Mindanao demand and supply outlook. They said that ZAMCELCO has a current deficiency in supply though there were short term commitments that could lessen the deficiency in the following years.
The DOE officers warned that in 2017 the city will suffer another deficiency due to increasing demand from consumers. They encouraged ZAMCELCO to draft a long term solution to this problem.
Atty. Goldelio G. Rivera of the National Electrification Authority presented the rate methodology for electric cooperatives. He also presented a comparison of the cost of electricity in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. ZAMCELCO was fourth in terms of revenues but it did not have earnings. Rivera shared that NEA has adequate disciplinary actions and the power to take over the management of power distributors.
Then, Atty. Rivera gave a presentation on stakeholder’s analysis.
During his talk, Engr. George Ledesma, ZAMCELCO General Manager, shared that the contract with previous suppliers was done by the previous cooperative administration. He said that his current administration is trying to find other suppliers capable of providing the city’s power supply requirements. The persistent blackouts is due to ZAMCELCO’s power supply deficiency.
Representing the business sector Pedro Rufo N. Soliven, shared with the body his sector’s frustration with the protracted situation. He said businessmen want an immediate solution and that they do not want to be cheated again. Soliven is the regional governor of the Western Mindanao chapter of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
For her part, Zamboanga City mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said she believes the problem lies not with the supply generating companies in Mindanao but with the inability of the distribution utility to carry out its basic responsibility. She said that the local cooperative should prioritize looking after the welfare of consumers and not profit-making.
At the end of the presentations, the panel of reactors were introduced. Remedies Marmoleno, formerly a senior officer of ADZU; Edgar Araojo, Faculty Union President of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU); and Romeo Bacharo, a professor at WMSU.
Marmoleno presented two points: the power supply and demand factor and the cooperative character of Zamcelco. Marmoleno went on to say that she wants ADZU to start the ball rolling on a comprehensive conversation regarding power.
Araojo and Bacharo pointed out three things: the issue on management, venturing to other sources, and engaged in serving. Bacharo, like Marmoleno, believed Ateneo can lead in the creation of a multi-sectoral approach to assist ZAMCELCO resolve the problem.