Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Palaweños should pin their hope on the privatization of Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) as it could be the key to finally ending the recurring problems that the province of Palawan has been experiencing for years now.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Committee on Energy of the Senate, emphasized that with the electric cooperative’s “inability” to resolve Palawan’s persistent power issues, it’s high time for private sector investment and management. Despite government subsidies, little progress has been made

“Kung hindi nila kayang i-manage, ibigay na lang natin sa private sector para sila na ang mag-invest at mag-manage,” Gatchalian said in an interview with the media on Saturday during his visit to distribute aid to victims of a recent fire incident that occurred in Barangay Bagong Silang and Pagkakaisa.

“First term senator pa lang ako problema na ninyo dito—hanggang ngayon. Nag-take over na ang National Electric Administration (NEA) problema pa rin. So, ang nakikita ko, kung hindi kakayanin ito ng electric cooperative, payagan na ang pribadong sektor pumasok para sila na ang maglagay at mag-operate,” he said.

Gatchalian added that with the developing economy, with tourism as the primary driver, Puerto Princesa City and the entire province of Palawan are rapidly growing, requiring infrastructure and energy to keep pace.

He also mentioned another issue in Palawan’s energy situation: power producers are using diesel, which is quite expensive compared to other types of fuel. He suggested that it could be replaced by other sources such as renewable energy or natural gas.

“Ang nakikita kong dapat palitan dito sa inyong supply ng kuryente, umalis ka sa diesel at pumasok sa ibang bagay katulad ng renewable energy or natural gas in the meantime which is mas mura compared to diesel,” he explained.

“Sa bilis ng paglago ng Palawan, hindi makahabol ang supply ng kuryente. Nagkaka brownout sa El Nido, sa Taytay, sa Coron dahil nga mabilis yung paglago ng ekonomiya dito. Angdaming hotel, bagong mall, pero ang kuryete mabagal ang paglago so isa ito sa tinitingnan ko at yung pagpalit ng teknolohiya like natural gas and RE,” he added.

New power distributor franchise
On the other hand, local legislators of Palawan have once again pushed for the opening of the province to new distribution facilities, urging Congress to pass a resolution for this purpose.

During their regular session last Tuesday, February 20, Board Member Ryan Maminta stated that it’s about time for the provincial government to allow new distribution facilities to enter and break the monopoly of PALECO.

He emphasized the need ‘to ensure efficient service to each district within the province of Palawan, subject to existing laws and regulations in the energy sector.

“Of course, it should be in accordance with the processes [to be] laid down by congress in granting franchise and yung competence at kakayanan ng papasok na makapagserbisyo ng tama, maayos at higit sa lahat, affordable yung rates ng kuryente na ihahatid sa kabahayan natin,” Maminta said.

“It’s up to congress although NEA is also there kasi part din sila ng process in granting a franchise if ever. And it’s up also to the MCOs (member-consumer-owners) kung gusto ba nila kasi sa mga susunod na meeting pwede na nilang gawin,” he added.

Maminta further stated that once approved, Paleco could also be divided into three separate cooperatives, a possibility that should be studied now for possible implementation once the current franchise of PALECO expires in 2029.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian also weighed in on the current debacle that PALECO and its MCOs are facing with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) cutting the government subsidy for PALECO when it entered into an Emergency Power Supply Agreement (EPSA) with Delta P Incorporated.

The senator said that even though the contract was entered into because of an emergency, the subsidy should still continue as stated in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

“Ang subsidy, hindi tinitingnan kung anong klase o ano ang nature ng kontrata. Yung EPSA is dahil nga kulang ng supply ng kuryente so dapat bumili kaagad at hindi nakasaad sa EPIRA Law na kung ganitong emergency ay walang subsidy,” he explained.

“I will file a resolution for investigation [regarding this] and tatawagan ko rin si ERC chairperson Mona Dimalanta para tingnan ito,” he said.