The Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s energy committee will seek the full assembly’s approval next week to establish a task force that will focus on addressing the persistent power challenges in Palawan.

This was the outcome of a committee hearing conducted with the local energy sector on Wednesday by board members Ryan Maminta, Al-Nasher Ibba, and Rafael Ortega Jr. to delve into the power issues affecting city and provincial residents.

Present at this session were the board of directors (BOD) and management of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco), local administration of the National Power Corporation (Napocor), representatives of the independent power producers (IPPs), the proponents of the Member-Consumer-Owner (MCO) Coalition, and other stakeholders.

Maminta, the panel’s chairperson, told Palawan News that they have approved a resolution concerning the establishment of the task force, which they plan to present to the plenary on December 12, due to the significant issues arising from the apparent shortcomings of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco).

WATCH THE ENERGY COMMITTEE HEARING: https://www.facebook.com/palawanlegislative/videos/248801657997828

He said their resolution will seek an executive order from Governor Dennis Socrates to establish the special body, which will incorporate members from the Department of Energy (DOE), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

The task force will have a technical working group (TWG) to examine proposals such as setting up three separate distribution utilities, each managed by a distinct team and elected BOD; considering the privatization of Paleco or inviting private investors and partners as its franchise is nearing the 2029 expiration; and evaluating whether the cooperative is still eligible for franchise renewal.

“Ang proposal na yan ay suportado din ng mga MCOs na nandoon—tulad ng Paleco 1, Paleco 2, Paleco 3—for each district sa mainland Palawan, kasama na rin siguro ang mga island municipalities kung nasa loob ng franchise area ng Paleco,” he stated, drawing a parallel to the situation in Camarines Sur and Albay.

“Puwede rin namang matalakay sa [task force] yong iba pang mga proposal, tulad ng paano ia-accommodate ni Paleco yong na magkaroon sila ng private partners para sa improvement ng financial and technical capabilities and capacities. Ang sabi nila, open sila sa ganoon,” he said.

Maminta added that in the course of the hearing, Paleco’s leadership, including BOD Chair Efren Abejo and General Manager Engr. Rez Contrivida, acknowledged challenges in both the financial and technical areas of their operations, underscoring evident weaknesses.

He disclosed that there are consumers, some of which are government agencies and large businesses, that owe Paleco about P530 million in unsettled electricity bills. As time passes without these debts being collected, the amount owed continues to grow, leading to a shortfall in funds that could be used to improve services.

Meanwhile, when household or small businesses fail to pay, their electricity supply is promptly disconnected. He described this practice as unfair and not a good way for the cooperative to operate.

Furthermore, he said Paleco was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why restoring electricity takes an extended amount of time, often several hours, in the event of complete power outages.

He gave the incident on November 27 as a latest example, where the transmission line from Irawan to Aborlan was struck by lightning twice, resulting in the tripping of power plants.

Maminta said that Contrivida told them during the hearing that when there are lightning strikes, there are also flashovers that extend to the steel towers. Without the protection called “lightning arresters” for Napocor, their towers can be affected, potentially causing cascading trips to power plants.”

“Basically, bago sa atin yong dahilan na yon. Yong dahilan na yon ay dahilan ng Napocor. Ang Paleco kasi mga tuko yan ang dahilan sa kanilang distribution lines, tapos mga vegetation. Pero ito, bago talaga ito,” he said.

“Ang dapat na i-address nila ay yong mabawasan dapat yong haba ng oras ng restoration, at saka yong reliability ng kanilang system pagdating sa distribution, at yong tibay ng kanilang system sa buong purchase area nila sa mainland Palawan. Apparently, wala silang mahusay na sagot dito—sabi lang nila tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang operation,” added Maminta.

Maminta insisted that more information has emerged during the hearing, and in order to determine where these are leading in relation to power in Palawan, there should be a task force established to assist in finding a solution.

Part of the task force’s responsibilities will also include revisiting the Palawan Integrated Energy Development Plan, which, to his knowledge, has only seen a 10 percent implementation rate of its entirety.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.