[UPDATED] Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi in 2019 had recommended the cancellation of the PALECO franchise when the province was facing power woes due to a combination of factors.
This was confirmed to Palawan News by PALECO Board chair Jeffrey Tan-Endriga, who stated that it happened after PALECO was included in a list of supposedly erring electric cooperatives that year.
The DOE at that time had also submitted to then-House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a list of power cooperatives that were supposedly “underperforming, financially and technically distressed” and calling for the cancellation of their franchises. PALECO was included in that list.
“That was his mistake, wala siyang karapatan i-cancel ang franchise ng coop with or without basis. [He is] just supporting some oligarchs that would want to take over PALECO,” Endriga said.
Endriga’s statement was in response to Cusi’s comment early this week in a virtual press conference where he reiterated his stand.
“Noon pang 2017 ay nagbigay na ako ng solusyon diyan, ang sabi ko nga, magagalit na naman sa akin ang PALECO. When I asked for the recognition of that franchise so that we can re-organize it and we can put somebody that can do the work. I understand, if it is better for the private sector to do it, let the private sector do it. If not, the government can take over,” Cusi said.
Endriga corrected Cusi, saying his recommendation to cancel their franchise was made in 2019 along with other 16 electric cooperatives.
Cusi said his move to revoke the franchise of PALECO earned him a declaration as persona non grata.
In 2019, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc (PHILRECA) issued Board Resolution No. 02-08-2019 declaring Cusi as persona non grata and calling for his immediate resignation as energy chief, pushed by 121 electric cooperatives nationwide, according to Endriga.
Cusi said that aside from DOE, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) is addressing the problem and even sending their experts to PALECO.
After Napoleon Cortes Jr. as officer-in-charge, PALECO was placed under the supervision of NEA with the appointment of Engineer Nelson Lalas as acting general manager (AGM) and project supervisor in 2019. He was succeeded by Bienvenida Tongol in May 2021.
During the Tuesday virtual presser, Cusi expressed willingness to appear before a congressional inquiry called by Palawan congressmen to probe the power distribution problem continuously hounding the province.
The resolution was jointly filed by the three Palawan congressional representatives last May to probe the power interruptions despite the adequate electricity supply and the intervention made by NEA two years ago.
“Again, for PALECO to shape up and do the work. Ang nangyayari, sa CSP (competitive selection process), may problema rin I think sa CSP sa pag-conduct ng bidding for the power supply. Hindi ko lang masyadong matandaan ang detalye, but we are going to address that. That hearing, if that will be called, we will be more than to attend,” Cusi said.
“Nagpapadala ang NEA ng lahat ng technical experts nila kaya lang ang coordination, ang na-report, bato-bato sa langit, ‘wag magagalit. Pero ang nasabi po sa akin, minsan diyan sa PALECO, alas kwatro pa lang daw ay nag-uuwian na ang mga tao kaya hindi matapos-tapos ang mga trabaho,” he added.
Endriga challenge Cusi to prove his allegation, stating that employees often even do overtime work.
“Patunayan niya na lang. I don’t have any justification on that matter, ma-check naman nila sa DTR ‘yan. Bakit ‘yong overtime ng mga empleyado, na-consider ba niya, minsang gabi na nagtrabaho pa rin sila, napasalamatan ba niya,” he said.