‘Don’t pass it on to consumers!’ Ex-power coop president chided PSALM for P471-B stranded debt

By JASON B. NEOLA

CALABANGA, Camarines Sur — Former Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative (Casureco II) president Dr. Domingo C. Yu told the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that he is “strongly and vehemently opposing the plan by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities (PSALM) to pass on to the power end-users its P471-B stranded debt.”

PSALM is requesting ERC that power rate be increased by about P1/kWh to recover the P471-B in 17 years.

In an interview, Yu said such decision by PSALM Corporation is discriminating, unfair and unreasonable.

Citing the Commission on Audit, Yu told the ERC Chair in his letter that the multi-billion stranded debt was incurred due to the “lavish spending of PSALM people, including the exorbitant bonuses and allowances of the corporation’s officials and consultants.”

Yu, for 12 years, had served the coop either as a member of its board of directors or no less than the coop president himself until he was barred from pursuing his crusade on a technicality by the National Electrification Administration guidelines on qualifications of coop board of directors which states that a prospective candidate for coop director or his/her spouse “does not hold an elective office in government nor appointed to an elective position above the level of Barangay Captain …”

Yu was recommended by the local power consumers here belonging to Multisectoral Electrification Advisory Council (MSEAC) to sit as replacement for Director Danilo Gonzales who is now serving as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan, but was prevented by NEA for similar reason.

A physician by profession, Yu is the husband of incumbent Mayor Evelyn Yu of this town.

As early as 1984, he has been known for his efforts to uphold and defend the rights of the electric cooperative and its member-consumers from mismanagement and corruption, which acts, according to him, had been abetted even by the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Now, Yu is again in the battlefront opposing the PSALM to pass on its stranded debt to the consumers.  He is fervently pleading the ERC to put it on hold and do not allow the gargantuan stranded debt be pass on to the power consumers since the corporation “have made enormous profit from its transactions.

According to Yu, Sec. 50, chapter VI of Republic Act 9136 provides that the “principal purpose of PSALM Corporation is to manage the orderly sale disposition and privatization of the generation assets of the National Power Corporation (NPC) and its real estate, and other disposal assets and contract with Independent Power Producers with the objective of liquidating all NPC financial obligations and stranded contract cost in an optimal manner.”

Wrote Yu: “Expectedly PSALM Corp. should have made enormous profit from these transactions. Is PSALM selling at a loss?”

He said another purpose of PSALM is “to assume all outstanding financial obligations of electric cooperatives to the National Electrification Administration and other government agencies for the purpose of financing the rural electrification program.”

With PSALM’s latest proposal, Yu warned consumers to expect higher power rates because the power coop would start again paying for loan amortizations for three botched mini-hydro and dendro-thermal projects.

Yu told ERC about the possible consequence should the plan of PSALM Corporation will have its way.  He said for several months, member-consumers are enjoying the monthly reduction in power bills “but this self-serving plan to address its stranded debt by passing it on to us will surely provide us a heavy financial burden.”

“At present, we are very thankful to ERC and PSALM for the condonation of P278, 544.29 of our loans, which allows Casureco II not to pay its yearly amortization in the total amount of P30.6 million.

Yu as coop president then was unrelenting in his battle as he branded NEA’s actions as “undue and excessive interference” on the affairs of Casureco II to the point that the member-consumers, the real owners of the coop no longer have a voice in running the organization.

When NEA tried in 1985 to dissolve the power coop’s board of directors, Yu was again in the forefront of an intense war and made clear his stand that the board that he leads would never compromise on graft and corruption, on extravagance and mismanagement and would never sacrifice the public trust for its own reason of being and for members’ interests.

He said dissolution of the board was NEA’s scheme to cushion the drive against violations of coop laws and illegal disbursement of funds.

NEA eventually took over the coop’s management in 1989 when it failed to settle a P27 million account under NEA’s relending program. Yu claimed that since NEA’s takeover, there had been a lot of suspicion that the coop had become its milking cow even as he said that post-audits were never made public.

The crusading Yu’s spirited campaign against coop ills and NEA’s alleged abuses surely earned him their ire but not the consumers who saw in him the energy that could pull beleaguered Casureco II back to its feet.

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