Political intervention in the affairs of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) drove its top candidate for the position of permanent general manager to withdraw his application.

Engineer Gonzalo Ong Jr., who was earlier chosen by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) management among other qualified applicants, told Palawan News on Friday he waived his chance to get the post “due to political issues.”

He denied at the same time the account by PALECO board chair Jeffry Endriga-Tan that they failed to agree on his salary package.

Ong said he became anxious to take the post after learning about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) attempt to cancel PALECO’s franchise, and the initiative of two Palawan congressmen to file a bill in the Lower House.

“Sa akin, it was better to deny the offer than to take it. Parang ‘yong time na ‘yon kasi medyo magulong-magulo na ‘– yong cancellation ng franchise ni DOE at saka ng dalawang congressmen,” he said.

He said it was during the height of these issues when he was instructed to report to the NEA for his final interview. He said he opted not to go.

“Yon ‘yong time na pinapupunta ako ng NEA. Hindi na ako pumunta. Parang magulo ‘yong set up ni PALECO, other than that medyo may hidden pa doon na parang kailangan kung mag-mano,” Ong said.

“After that, wala naman ng ibang proseso. Hindi kami nagkaroon ng negotiation. Pero ‘yon lang kung baga… regarding salary negotiation, hindi kami umabot sa ganoon,” he added.

Early this year, House Reps. Frederick Abueg (2nd Legislative District) and Gil Acosta Sr. (3rd Legislative District) filed House Bill 8829 seeking the granting of a new electric distribution facility franchise to MORE Reedbank Corporation.

MORE Reedbank by business tycoon Enrique Razon was also eyeing to establish, operate, and maintain a distribution system in the province to convey electricity to end users.

The other professional electrical engineers who applied with Ong from Palawan were Engr. Joseph Cesar Baloloy and Engr. Alladin Cruz.

Ong said based on the text message and the call made to him by the human resource (HR) office of the NEA, he was the only one who qualified because he was endorsed for the position by the School of Psychology of the University of the Philippines (UP) after their examination.

Aside from being the current youngest professional electrical engineer in the province, 36-years old Ong is also a real estate broker, a registered master plumber, and an environmental planner.

“May isa rin kasi akong narinig… hindi ba nagkaroon din si BOD chair ng intriga dyan sa waste-to-energy, ‘yon ‘yong kasabay ng mga isyu na ‘yon kaya medyo on my judgment parang… should I pursue or not… kung baga sabi ko, napakabata ko pa para doon sa ganoong set up na nangyayari [sa PALECO]. Baka sabihin naman nila mukhang pera ako. Hindi ako ganyang tao,” Ong said.

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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.