BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
The most notorious kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf is no match to this modern-day pirate. The former must live the life of fugitives, sweat it out, and risk life and limb of its members to make a living with a few million pesos at the maximum.
The latter, however, can breeze through good life in the comfort of air-conditioned offices and even be awarded “most outstanding taxpayer” for making multi-million bucks, no sweat.
I am referring to Panay Electric Company (PECO) or Patay Electric that your Beekeeper often prefers to call it.
PECO charges consumers P1 per kilowatt/hour (kwh). It appears small but multiply that to its annual input of 400 million kwh, and that translates to P400 million.
Now, it is applying to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for a .2681 per kwh increase for next year. That’s a small amount but that is P26.681 million per year, which is about the same cost of the Iloilo City College building that Injap Foundation is erecting for indigent city residents.
From the current P1 per kwh, PECO eyes to jack up its distritution charge to P1.5422 in 2013, P1.8755 in 2014, and P2.2962 in 2015, according to the press statement of All Pinoy Volunteers, a consumers alliance.
Should it be given its way, PECO will be making P918.48 million in net profit by 2015. In that case, it licensed it to rake a windfall as reward for enraging us with lackadaisical services.
We thought that with the coal-fired plant in place – and we heard it from Randy Pastolero, PECO operations chief and mouthpiece – that electricity rates would go down in Iloilo City. But the opposite trend is happening.
At the start, we were among the voices shouting against the construction of the coal-fired power plant knowing that electricity defied mathematics.
Electricity is beyond the control of demand-and-supply because the real force behind the surging power rate is unmitigated greed for profits, which even defies the law of gravity.
We still have recurring and outrageous power outages because Patay Electric is more concerned for profits than improving services like procuring new equipment and beefing up its repair crew teams, not just rely on subcontractors.
We still have PECO employees grumbling against poor work conditions (that includes salaries), and many of them having opted to resign or retire early.
We still see PECO retrenching workers and hire contractual or subcontract repairs and maintenance because all it wants are three things first above all else, namely: profits, profits and profits.
At the hearings for PECO application for rate increase, Bien Anatan who was the resource person for consumers, declared that the power company did not deserve further increase. In fact, the actual distribution charge that should have been approved was P0.9806, not the current P1.042 per kwh.
We had a chance of interviewing Anatan and Allen Aquino and we can’t help but be amused to realize that we had been conditioned to fear the Abu Sayyaf more than the pirate which raked P400 million profits per year.
Anatan and Aquino are former employees of PECO, the former having opted for early retirement, the latter having resigned for the sake of preserving his peace of mind.
Anatan, an engineer, headed the engineering and operations department of PECO while Aquino was the accounts and receivables assistant.
To be more precise, the current distribution charge of P1.042 per kwh yields P404.2 million per year. That is more than enough to pay the salaries of employees, maintain the lines and other properties of the company, procure vehicles and equipment, depreciation, and other expenses and the rest, as profit to the company.
Anatan and Aquino say that PECO needs only P100 million to pay the salaries of
its workers, buy vehicles, maintain assets, and pay for the depreciation costs, among others. The rest of the P404.2 million represents profits.
PECO though continues to reduce costs by trimming down its work force of regular employees and replace them with contractuals.
Part of the distribution charge collection is supposedly intended for periodic purchases of new vehicles to replace ageing ones. That does not happen because the life of vehicles “is stretched beyond seven years when the ideal is every five years” without new procurement, discloses Anaton.
All Pinoy Volunteers, by the way, invites readers to attend the public consultation on June 7, 8:30 am, at the Rehearsal Room of the West Visayas State University (WVSU), Iloilo City.*(To be continued)