(File photo)

The Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) will no longer be privatized by the national government, according to the chairman of its board of directors (BOD).

Jeffrey Tan-Endriga, chair of the PALECO board, said Wednesday he believes President Rodrigo Duterte’s issued “end of 2018” deadline is now “of little account” because they have already submitted to Malacañang their proposed “short, medium, and long-term rehabilitation plans.”

“It will no longer be privatized. ‘Yong deadline naman kasi na ibinigay ni President Duterte is actually a timeline for us to come up with better solutions or rehabilitation plans to upgrade our services. We have already submitted these plans to Malacañang earlier,” Endriga told Palawan News in a phone interview.

He explained that following Duterte’s warning in November, he and other PALECO board members and officials had a series of meeting with the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Electrification Administration (NEA), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and other line agencies to take care of the situation.

The rehabilitation plans they submitted to Malacañang include massive vegetation clearings which are already being done now, installation of additional reclosers, and setting up of the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system as short-term solutions.

The medium-term rehabilitation plans involve putting in place distribution substations and the conduct of the competitive selection process (CSP) for the main grid and island mode areas such as El Nido, Cuyo, Taytay, and San Vicente.

Long-term plans, on the other hand, will be mostly handled by the National Power Corporation (Napocor) that is in charge of the construction of additional transmission lines.

“There is no privatization anymore because we have completed the rehabilitation plans that we were told to submit by the national government agencies like the DOE and NEA. What we need now is to produce the fund to execute them to have better power services,” he said.

Endriga said they now understand that Engr. Nelson Lalas’ appointment as project supervisor and acting general manager (AGM) is part of the NEA’s intervention to stop the privatization of PALECO.

“Lalas’ appointment was actually a recommendation of the NEA while there is no permanent general manager yet who will handle the technical problems. He is an electrical engineer and he has a wide experience when it comes to resolving these issues,” Endriga pointed out.

Lalas’ appointment, he further expressed, is not the first time that the NEA appointed an AGM in the PALECO.

“Ngayon ko lang nalaman na noon pala nag-appoint na din ang NEA ng AGM dito sa PALECO noong nagka-problema noon. Hindi ito ang first time, at normal pala itong ginagawa ng NEA sa mga nagkaka-problema na power cooperatives (I just found out recently that the NEA also appointed an AGM before when PALECO also experienced a problem. This is not the first time, and it is really normal for NEA to do this in power cooperatives that are having problems),” he added.

Endriga also said that although Lalas’ appointment by NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong is indefinite or “until such a time” a permanent GM is chosen, it does not mean that the search is shelved.

He said he is currently in Manila for a meeting on Thursday with Masongsong to appeal for the electrification administration to hasten the selection process so a general manager can already be chosen.

“Andito ako sa Manila ngayon dahil bukas may meeting sa NEA at ire-request natin doon na i-speed up ang pagpili ng permanent GM. But we are confident that while Lalas is here, he can help us identify what we need to do to fix our technical problems in PALECO (I am here in Manila right now for a meeting on Thursday with the NEA and we will request for them to speed up the selection of the permanent GM),” Endriga said.

He reiterated that Lalas’ presence as project supervisor and AGM is not an “act of assuming control of the PALECO” by the national government because “it is not an ailing electric cooperative.”

Lalas’ given authority to approve and disapprove board resolutions, he stated, will even be to the advantage of PALECO as decisions will no longer lag and take weeks in the NEA.

“Ipinaliwanag sa atin ni Lalas na advantage sa atin ‘yong authority na binigay sa kanya kung ang kinatatakutan lang natin ay check and balance. Sabi niya kung may mga importanteng desisyon sa level pa lang niya ay puwede nang ma-approve. Sa NEA it takes two weeks or more sometimes kung hihintayin ang mga importanteng desisyon,” he said.

(Lalas explained to us that his given authority is even advantageous for PALECO if we’re only afraid that there is no check and balance. He said if there are important decisions, these can already be approved at his level. In the NEA, sometimes it takes two weeks or more for us to wait for decisions to be made.)

On January 4, Lalas already reported to PALECO as its acting general manager and met with the board of directors during their regular meeting.

He assured he is not in Palawan to add to the problems of the electric cooperative but to help improve its services to consumers.

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