Bicol tycoon in old Bikoy accusations hosts Duterte in power plant inauguration
It was an interesting cast of characters assembled at the inauguration of a hybrid solar-diesel power plant in Romblon on Wednesday, August 21.
President Rodrigo Duterte was the evening's guest of honor, accompanied by his longtime aide and now senator, Bong Go, and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Their host? Elizaldy Co, the Bicol-based businessman who flip-flopping government witness Peter Joemel Advincula or "Bikoy" once accused of being part of a drug syndicate and hosting its operations in his Misibis Bay resort.
Co is also currently AKO Bicol Partylist representative, having replaced Justin Batocabe, son of slain lawmaker Rodel Batocabe at the last minute. Co is AKO Bicol chairman emeritus and founder.
Advincula had also claimed that Duterte and Go, among other government officials, had visited Co's resort and used Co's private helicopter.
Advincula has since retracted this allegation while Co filed a cyber libel suit against him.
Co was described during the inauguration as the founder and former chairperson of Sunwest Water and Electric Company Inc. (Suweco), the company behind Tumingad Solar Power Plant.
Said to be the first and largest hybrid solar-diesel microgrid with battery in the Philippines, the power plant will provide partly green electricity to Tablas Island.
Co gave the opening remarks that night. Duterte, in his speech, spoke of Co in familiar terms, using his nickname "Zaldy."
"Ang sabi ni Zaldy, it (power plant) has been built to last so many times over and I’m happy for you. If it would last longer, wala na tayong problema actually at si Zaldy na ang, give or take a few years from now, siya na ang pinaka-Lopez na papalit," said Duterte.
(Zaldy said it has been built to last so many times over and I'm happy for you. If it would last longer, we won't have any problems actually and Zaldy will be, give or take a few years from now, he will be the replacement of Lopez.)
Duterte was likely referring to the wealthy and powerful Lopezes who own broadcasting giant ABS-CBN. The President has threatened to block its franchise renewal, accusing the network of "bias" and "swindling."
Duterte does not visit every inauguration of a renewable energy plant. Often, events that merit his presence are those with great impact or involve people important to him.
Secretary Cusi, asked by Rappler if DOE was aware of Co being part of Advincula's old accusations, said Duterte attended the inauguration out of support for electrification projects.
"It's (Co's power plant) a hybrid power source which the government or DOE is promoting to help improve supply and bring down cost, especially in SPUG (small power utilities group) areas," Cusi said in a message.
Asked if there was any personal connection between Duterte and Co that also partly explained his attendance, Cusi said, "PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) visited the project because of its importance and [to] be with the people of Romblon. He wanted to see the project firsthand." – Rappler.com
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