GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Like a fantasy movie, a small power client came to the rescue of its bigger supplier, saving it from humiliation and its community patrons from potential economic disaster.
The Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative (Sukelco) on Thursday, August 25, bought 120,000 liters of diesel fuel and loaded six tankers that traveled almost six hours that night.
Destination: the Kalamansig Diesel Power Plant (KDPP) of the National Power Corporation-Small Power Utility Group (Napocor-SPUG) in Sultan Kudarat, Soccsksargen region.
The power plant was set to run out of diesel fuel that day, threatening the coastal towns of Kalamansig, Lebak, and portions of Palimbang with sudden darkness and economic paralysis. All three towns are in Sultan Kudarat.
Sukelco paid Petron Corporation P20 million ($356,001.66) for the fuel that was transported from the oil firm’s depot in Bawing, this city, to Kalamansig town, more than 200 kilometers away.
Sukelco Area 3 manager Francisco Torres said they cannot afford to have their member-consumers suffer a blackout because of Napocor-SPUG’s diesel supply crisis.
Napocor-SPUG is a unit of the government corporation that serves areas outside of the main power grid.
The P20 million spent by Sukelco for fuel will be charged as advance payment of the cooperative to its bills with Napocor-SPUG.
The fuel may last long enough until Napocor-SPUG and the national government can find the means to settle the firm’s enormous debt with Petron, Torres said.
Staving off disaster
Kalamansig, Lebak, and Palimbang have a combined population of more than 150,000. An extended blackout spells disaster for business and economy, and misery for residents of two towns, Torres added.
Palimbang Mayor Mayor Joenime Kapina lamented about the sorry state of electricity supply in their town.
“Apektado ang ekonomiya at pagnenegosyo ng mga tao sa amin,” he said. (Our local economy and residents’ businesses are affected.)
Kapina said an investor had planned to build an ice plant in their town but backed out because of the miserable state of power supply.
On normal days, Sukelco buys the electricity generated by KDPP and sells this to its member-consumers in the two towns, which are outside of the main Mindanao power grid.
But in recent days, Lebak and Kalamansig residents have complained of frequent outages as the power provider struggles with a low diesel supply.
This has forced the company to adopt 12-hour, electricity load-shedding schemes to stretch its fuel stock, according to Napocor-SPUG vice president Larry Sabellina.
The worst happened when Petron refused to deliver diesel to Napocor-SPUG unless it paid its outstanding P1.2-billion ($21,360,112.06) balance. The amount covers the unpaid fuel deliveries in all Napocor-SPUG plants nationwide.
Sabellina bared in a memorandum that in their talks with Petron executives on Monday, August 22, the oil firm refused to accept an initial P250-million ($4,450,023.79) payment, and put on hold deliveries to Napocor-SPUG plants in Mindanao and Luzon until the bill is settled.
The situation drew suspicions of corruption and questions from consumers, wondering why Napocor-SPUG had incurred such an enormous amount of unpaid fuel bills.
Sukelco, in a primer posted on its social media page, said the situation is a result of the sudden rise in fuel prices due to the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
The Sukelco social media explainer stated that Napocor-SPUG’s fuel consumption for 2022 was bid out in 2021 and budgeted at the diesel price then of P55 per liter.
Then the Russia-Ukraine war broke out and diesel prices soared to as much as P90 a liter.
A Napocor-SPUG official said they tried to ask for a supplemental budget but there has been no response to that.
Sukelco general manager Claudia Pondales brought the matter to Malacanang, seeking the “quick intervention” of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to avert the power crisis confronting their service area. They are still awaiting word from the Palace, a Sukelco source said.
The P1.2 billion does not only cover the consumption of KDPP but also that of other Napocor-SPUG power plants in the country, such as those in Dinagat Island, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and in Luzon. – Rappler.com
$1 = P56.1795