LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — “Pay your power bills first.”
This was the advice of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Cenpelco), noting that it has accumulated unpaid power bills from its supplier San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC).
However, Petilla admitted that Cenpelco’s problem is only a small matter as compared to the problems of other electric cooperatives throughout the country, specifically in Mindanao where peace and order is unstable.
Disconnection of power by SMEC was averted when it signed an agreement with Cenpelco compelling the latter to settle its long overdue unpaid power bills in the amount of several million pesos monthly over a period of one year until fully paid,
Failure of Cenpelco to pay its due monthly, according to their agreement, would force SMEC to disconnect electricity that could affect all consumers in its coverage areas.
“Make sure you pay your power bills,” echoed Petilla in a press conference attended by Roddigo Corpuz, Cenpelco general manager, adding that the member consumers must also pay their electric bills monthly.
He told Cenpelco member-consumers, “You should help each other to sustain the viability of the electric cooperative that you own.”
He said that if the cooperative collects from electric consumers, it has two accounts to settle — the overhead expenses which include the salaries of employees and the most important one is the power supplier.
“I am not discriminating salaries of workers. But if Cenpelco does not pay its power bills, its entire area will be disconnected,” he said.
Even five days without electricity will bring more damage to the cooperative and the consumers, he added, pointing out that if this happens, the more that Cenpelco cannot collect from consumers,” he added.
As a power distributor, Cenpelco buys power from SMEC by the wholesale and distribute the same to consumers by retail.
“What I usually advise is for the cooperatives to pay their power bills first, so power will not be disconnected,” he intoned.
He said between a previous and present power suppliers, the present supplier must be paid first.
In his speech before Cenpelco member-consumers, Petilla said it is not enough that they pay their electric bills monthly while their neighbors are not or even stealing electricity.
In case they notice any electricity pilferage in their areas, it is their obligation to report this to Cenpelco, otherwise the cooperative that they own will exacerbate its losses.
“As co-owners of Cenpelco, the member-consumers must protect the cooperative,” Petilla added.
Meanwhile, Petilla did not fault Cenpelco from buying power from SMEC rather than from the Pangasinan-based power producers such as the San Roque Power Corporation as well as the Team Energy which operates the San Roque Dam project and the Sual Coal-fired power plant, respectively.
It is because SMEC is selling cheaper power to Cenpelco than the two Pangasinan-based power producers.
Three other power distributors in Pangasinan — the Pangasinan Electric Cooperative I and Pangasinan Electric Cooperative III, as well as the Dagupan Electric Corporation — are also buying power outside Pangasinan.
Petilla said that as businesses, they (cooperatives) buy from where the commodity is cheaper.