Vendors at the old and new public markets in Puerto Princesa fear that prolonged power outages as a result of unpaid electric bills will damage their products and impact their operations, which will result in lower sales and income.
Lorna Alanghadi, one of the fish vendors, said that their power supply was disconnected last Thursday, February 3, which is the longest power loss she has experienced in seven years of selling. She also observed fewer buyers in the fish section due to the problem.
“Grabe, may epekto talaga sa amin kasi hindi mabenta kaagad ‘yong isda namin kasi madilim. Madaling-araw pa (nandito na kami). Ang ginagamit namin kapag umaga hanggang tanghali, battery muna. Pagdating na madilim na, generator na ginagamit, doon lang kami (nakiki-connect) kay ate,” Alanghadi said.
Like Alanghadi, not all vendors in the new market have a generator set they can rely on while the electricity has yet to be reconnected. The lower volume of fish due to the northeast monsoon, though, lessens her worries about possible damage to her product.
“Hindi na namin matiis na ganito, grabe na kainit. Nahihirapan kami. Syempre, kapag ganito wala kang kuryente, wala na masyadong customer na pumapasok dito – hindi nila makita ‘yong isda. Iba nagdadala na lang ng cellphone, flashlight sa isda namin–ganitong nangyari sa amin, kagulat nga,” she added.
New Market United Vendors Association president Leoncio Domingo said that around 200 vendors like Alanghadi are affected after the disconnection of power supply experienced on Friday in the new public market and on Thursday in the old market.
“Ang mga taga-karnehan dumadaing na sa akin dahil walang kuryente, pangunahin nila na pangangailangan—mabubulok talaga ang karne nila. Hindi kaya i-ice tulad ng isda—kawawa ‘yong mga walang kakayahan gumamit ng generator syempre madilim pwesto nila, lalo sila hindi makabenta,” he said.
City councilor Elgin Damasco said Monday that the public markets of the city were disconnected due to unpaid electricity consumption by the city government amounting to about P1.2 million. He said that market superintendent Jospeh Carpio claimed that PALECO did not issue a notice prior to disconnection.
“Tinanong ko siya bakit nangyari ‘yon? Sabi niya (Carpio), paano namin ma-process ‘yong payment, wala naman kami natanggap na billing for disconnection notice mula sa PALECO na ‘yon ang problema. Kung napadalhan lang daw sila ng disconnection letter, gagawan nila ng paraan. Sabi ni Mr. Carpio, ang tauhan niya pa ang pumunta sa PALECO para humingi ng actual billing,” he said.
Damasco said that the latest billing received by the market management was the P600,000 that was already settled. He added that the city government is now settling the payment for the unpaid consumption.
He is seeking an explanation from the electric cooperative within the day, including the timeline of the unpaid bill consumption.
“Kung totoo na wala sila natanggap na disconnection notice, hindi rin natin sila masisisi. Ano ibabayad mo kung walan naman notice? Ang tanong bakit pinutulan agad na walang disconnection notice? Baka naman nagbigay sila, hindi rin natin alam kaya nga gusto natin na magpaliwanag,” Damasco said.
PALECO board chair Jeffrey Tan-Endriga said that the electric cooperative provided all standard processes, contrary to the claim that there was no notice provided before the disconnection.
“As far as this record is concerned, we have provided all the standard processes and information for this account. Part of our responsibility is to pay our electricity bill because we also have an obligation to our power supplier,” Endriga said in a text message.
“Naipon na yan kaya nga napilitan putulan dahil ‘di na-settle ang account nila,” Endriga added.
Damasco appeals to PALECO to reconnect the account of the markets, assuring that the city government will pay for its consumption.
He added that if PALECO would not grant his request while processing the payment, he might call PALECO to the committee.
Palawan News tried to get the side of the market management, but Carpio did not respond to texts or calls. A market staff said that he attended a meeting in the treasurer’s office during the afternoon.
Hope for reconnection
Domingo said that even though all vendors are affected, most of the products at risk are meat, fish, and vegetables.
“Nakipag-usap na rin ako sa opisina. Ginagawan na rin daw nila ng paraan. Sana nga ngayong araw mahabol, kung hindi ngayon, bukas. Iyon ang sabi kasi sabi nila hindi rin daw sila nagpapabaya,” he said.
He claimed that the market’s office had just estimated the timeframe and that he had not yet spoken with Carpio. He added that vendors will also adjust the volume of products if the problem completely affected their operations and sales.
“Kung tatagal pa ito ng isang buwan o dalawang buwan, talagang lahat magrireklamo. Unang-una ‘yong walang kuryente hindi makabenta, ‘yong gumagamit ng generator—dagdag gastos sa mga vendor—kasi malaki ang konsumo sa gasolina o kaya diesel—o hindi naman lahat ay kaya magka-genset,” he said.
As of press time, power has already been restored.
PALECO disconnection operations
In a statement released by PALECO, the management informed its member-consumers of its ongoing disconnection from delinquent payers, including residential, commercial, industrial, and public building facilities. It covers those who have unpaid consumption until November 2021.
“Layunin ng nasabing gawain na ma-update ang buwanang obliasyon ng mga konsumidores nang sa gayon ay matugunan ang buwanang pagbabayad sa ating mga obligasyon sa power providers at maging sa mga materyales at equipment at lalong lalo na sa mga ginamit sa pagkukumpuni ng nasira ng bagyong Odette,” it stated.
The statement added that it will also help to increase the collection efficiency of the electric cooperative. (with reports from Jeshyl Guiroy)