National Electrification Administration (NEA) Administrator Edgardo Masongsong has appealed to local government units (LGUs) to address the matter of unsettled electricity bills owed to electric cooperatives (ECs), stressing that the “unpaid amounts may be used to bring power to hundreds of sitios yet to be served by electricity all over the country.”
“We emphasize that this plea for payment should not be taken negatively as a reproach. Our LGUs are now in a uniquely privileged position to be instrumental not only in keeping their electric cooperatives financially afloat but in electrifying the unserved and underserved communities in their jurisdictions. They should grab this opportunity to viably partner with electric cooperatives in nation-building,” Masongsong said.
Outstanding financial obligations of local governments to ECs across the country have ballooned to over P1.4 billion, according to latest NEA figures.
“We emphasize that this plea for payment should not be taken negatively as a reproach.”
Masongsong added the amount was on top of millions in unpaid power bills to ECs incurred by some government institutions, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), as earlier reported by the Department of Energy (DOE).
Last October, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi appealed to the AFP and PNP to pay their outstanding debts that reached P17 million to 23 ECs. Of the amount, the AFP owed P10.9 million, while the PNP owed P5.3 million.
The DOE had signed an agreement with the AFP, PNP, Philippine Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation for the settlement of their outstanding accounts.
“On the NEA’s part, we admit the unsettled funds could of course be used to fund and jumpstart electrification projects elsewhere.”
News of the national government agencies’ debts “opened a Pandora’s box of sorts,” as further investigation revealed that LGUs owed ECs for unpaid use of power, which had remained uncollected for years.
As of June 2018, NEA figures showed that LGUs nationwide have estimated outstanding obligations totaling P1.431 billion to 80 power co-ops.
Local governments in Luzon owed the biggest amount with P1.034 billion, followed by those in Visayas with P366.617 million and Mindanao LGUs with P30.897 million.
“The good Secretary’s statements, when he issued that gentle reminder to the armed services of the government to settle their outstanding bills was somehow unprecedented, at least for us in the rural electrification movement. Ikinatuwa ng mga electric cooperative ‘yon,” Masongsong said.
“On the NEA’s part, we admit the unsettled funds could of course be used to fund and jumpstart electrification projects elsewhere. That’s the reason we’re making this urgent appeal now to our LGUs and concerned local government executives. This is an opportunity to set good examples by settling their unpaid bills. Non-compliance has adverse effects on the operational performance of their respective power utilities. Let’s turn this challenge into an opportunity to achieve greater rural electrification in the countryside,” Masongsong added.