Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez (sitting, head table) with PALECO board chairman Jeffrey Tan-Endriga (2nd from left), PALECO board of director Moises Arzaga Jr., (foreground), MORE Power president and COO Roel Z. Castro (wearing red polo shirt), and other representatives of the power company on September 24 ay the Provincial Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Palawan Moving Forward)

MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) has floated an idea of a joint venture with the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) to participate in operating the latter’s distribution franchise in the province.

The proposal was raised in a meeting Friday, September 24, between its president and chief operating officer and members of the coop’s board of directors.

MORE Power president and chief operating officer Roel Z. Castro made the proposal “verbally” at a meeting initiated by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, according to power coop board chairman Jeffrey Tan-Endriga on Saturday.

The power company, owned by billionaire businessman Enrique Razon Jr., is operating distribution facilities including Iloilo’s. Palawan’s representatives have previously filed a bill in the House seeking a franchise specifically for the Razon-led power group.

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Due diligence
“Ang binabanggit nila sa power distribution lines. Ang focus nila is sa operations ng PALECO, which is distribution lines, distribution utility. Kaya nga gusto rin natin malaman sa kanila, ano ba yong maitutulong niyo?” Endriga told Palawan News.

“Gusto nila mag-invest, sabi nila mga 70%-30%, pero wala pa talaga kasi nga meet-and-greet pa lang naman ito. Willing sila ng 70-30 ratio na investment. Sila yong 70, pero sabi ko naman sa kanila yong pagpasok ng isang investor katulad nila sa isang electric coop katulad ng PALECO ay walang ina-allow na ganoon kalaki ang share,” he said.

Endriga said there is no problem with the offer to improve power services in the province. However, it was merely a meet-and-greet that did not result in a formal agreement since MORE Power must present its proposals in a paper.

Under their bylaws, joint venture is allowed but the terms and conditions must be clear to both parties. “Hindi naman na tinatanggihan natin agad yan, pero pag-aralan natin”.

He said MORE Power initially pegged a power cost of P6 per kilowatt-hour, but this, too, is not final.

“Sinasabi niya nga (Castro) na mababa ang kuryente nila, at wala naman tayong isyu doon. Hindi namin kinokontra yon, pero iba kasi tayo sa Palawan, SPUG (Small Power Utilities Group) area tayo so definitely mas mataas talaga yong rate natin,” he said.

According to him, a MORE Power team is now “making the rounds” as part of a first due diligence effort.

Castro said on September 24 in a statement released by the province via its social media account Palawan Moving Forward that his visit was at the request of Alvarez, who learned about what their power operation is doing in Iloilo to reduce power costs for consumers.

He stated that after over a year and a half, MORE Power has succeeded in bringing down electricity rates for consumers.

Castro added they are ready to help Palawan in providing solutions to its power woes.

“Actually, we came here upon the invitation of the governor. I think nabalitaan ni Governor Alvarez the things that we are doing in Iloilo, especially in driving down the price for the consumer and also really improving the service to the consumers. I think that caught the attention of the Palawan Governor,” Castro said.

“If there is a way that we can help or maybe in some points for both PALECO and MORE, something that we could explore and looked into. But, of course, we need to look up into the system first,” he added.

READ RELATED STORY: PALECO to oppose franchise bid of MORE Reedbank Corp

Reports regarding MORE Power pursuing a new franchise to establish and operate a power distribution system in the province first surfaced in 2019, when House Bill No. 8829 was introduced in the House of Representatives by then-representative Frederick F. Abueg and incumbent Rep. Gil A. Acosta.

Endriga claimed at the time that they were not consulted, and that the PALECO franchise is still valid for 10 years until expiry, and that it is not an ailing cooperative to be abandoned by giving another to a corporate power producer.

He went on to explain that the outages are “technically not PALECO’s fault,” but rather the outcome of a number of circumstances concerning independent power providers, which are also being addressed.

“As of now, walang isyu yong PALECO, kasi in terms of operation, unang-una, yong operations ng PALECO second highest to the category nationwide, sabi ko sa kanila. Bumalik na tayo sa Double AA, meaning maganda yong performance natin,” he said.

Out of 121 cooperatives in the Philippines, he said PALECO’s financial condition is liquid.

“Si PALECO mayroong existing na pautang last year na kalahating bilyon — kung ibang electric coop yan, naghihingalo na yan, pero tayo hindi. Maganda pamamalakad natin. Hindi ito nakikita ng mga basher o yong mga tumutuligsa,” he added.

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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.