ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Lanao del Norte leaders on Monday, August 8, called on Congress to remove three towns from the franchise of the debt-ridden Lanao del Sur Rural Electric Cooperative (Lasureco), and allow them to be served by another local power distributor.
The move, if approved by Congress, would avert a looming power crisis that could affect a population of 223,958 in parts of Lanao del Norte, as a result of Lasureco’s mounting debts.
In June, then-finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III greenlit the plan of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) to cut off Lasureco and the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco) from the Mindanao power grid due to their delinquent payments that ballooned to billions of pesos.
Last-minute negotiations and a court order averted the PSALM plan.
In the case of Lasureco, Executive Judge Wenida Papandayan of the Regional Trial Court in Marawi City issued a temporary restraining order against the planned disconnection.
Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo said he was working to have the franchise of the Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Laneco) renewed, but Lasureco initially opposed the inclusion of the towns of Pantao Ragat, Pantar, and Baloi.
The three Lanao del Norte towns are presently under the Lasureco franchise.
Dimaporo said it did not make sense that the Lanao del Norte towns were being served by a power distributor from another province.
He also called Lasureco the “worst and most debt-ridden (electric) cooperative in the whole country.”
Lasureco’s debts piled up through the years and ballooned to some P12.9 billion.
Lasureco manager Norjana Dipatuan Ducol said the cooperative has agreed to let go of the Lanao del Norte towns provided that Laneco pays Lasureco for its infrastructure assets and other investments in the three municipalities.
Ducol also pointed out that placing the three Lanao del Norte towns under Laneco was the call of Congress.
Former Pantao Ragat mayor Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud said the move to include her town in the Laneco franchise would likely result in a stable supply of power in the municipality.
Lantud said Lasureco’s problems were due to the attitude of its member consumers in Lanao del Sur who were convinced that they were entitled to free electricity because Mindanao’s primary source of hydroelectric power is their lake – Lake Lanao.
“After several decades, they have not improved. The consumers there are not cooperative. They say that they own the lake, and therefore, they should not pay their electric bills,” she said. – Rappler.com