South Cotabato

South Cotabato wants takeover of electric utility over frequent blackouts

Rommel Rebollido

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South Cotabato wants takeover of electric utility over frequent blackouts

AT WORK. Socoteco I linemen work to relocate distribution poles and transformers affected by the construction of Koronadal City Public Market Building.

courtesy of Socoteco 1

Socoteco I is facing widespread criticism from its member-consumers in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao del Sur, who complain of frequent blackouts amid the sweltering heat since the start of the dry season

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. has proposed that the provincial government take over and operate the South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I) due to a public uproar over frequent blackouts, and the electric utility’s inadequate services, and relatively high power rates.

For weeks, Socoteco I has been facing widespread criticism from its member-consumers in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao del Sur, who complained of frequent unscheduled outages amid the sweltering heat since the start of the dry season. The frequent blackouts last for hours.

Socoteco I general manager Raffee Edsel Epistola said the frequent outages were due to wire vibrations that eventually destroyed electrical insulators.

Its power rates have been described by local officials and consumers as “exorbitant,” and the electric utility itself was called “inefficient.” 

The electric cooperative currently charges the highest rate of P16 per kilowatt-hour among electric utilities in the Soccsksargen region. 

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Governor Tamayo said the capitol could step into the picture and acquire and run Socoteco I to resolve the persisting issues that have burdened electric consumers in the province. 

Based on Tamayo’s proposal, the provincial government would put up a hydroelectric power plant and solar power generation facility to augment the power supply in areas under the Socoteco I franchise.

Socoteco I provides electricity to the South Cotabato towns of Banga, Surallah, Santo Niño, Norala, Lake Sebu, Tboli, Tampakan, Tantangan, Koronadal City, and Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat, and Panapan in Buluan town, Maguindanao del Sur province.

Tamayo said Socoteco I, under the provincial government, could invest in power generation to beef up its power supply instead of paying the independent power producer Supreme Power Corporation more than P17 million monthly for electricity that “is not being fully utilized.”

“We can improve the services and may even bring down the electricity rates of up to P10 per kilowatt-hour,” Tamayo said.

The provincial board summoned Socoteco I officials to answer the public criticisms and shed light on its operations and the state of the power supply in South Cotabato.

Before the province’s legislature, Socoteco I finance officer Francis Fedoc said the cooperative charges the highest among electric cooperatives in the Soccsksargen region because of the rates imposed on it by several power producers. 

Socoteco 1 relies mainly on a 70% generation mix of coal, whose price has soared since the war in Ukraine.

Fedoc said the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) supplies the cheapest electricity at P3 per kilowatt-hour, but Socoteco 1 can only get 25% of its supply requirement due to “some limitations.” 

The public criticisms against the electric utility turned ugly on social media that the Socoteco I management threatened to ban rude cooperative member-consumers on its official Facebook page. 

It released a “Social Media Policy,” which outlines how netizens and member-consumers were expected to behave on its official Facebook page. 

“We would like to remind everyone to keep the discussions appropriate and respectful,” read part of its public announcement.

Socoteco I said the cooperative respects people’s right to free expression but would be intolerant of hate speech, and anyone exhibiting such behavior will be banned or blocked from accessing its Facebook page. 

It also said the cooperative reserves the right to hide and delete inappropriate comments, such as “threats and offensive language, indecent elements, irrelevant or off-topic, misinformation or fake news.”

A power consumer, Maria Roa, snapped back at Socoteco I, “We respect your right to shield yourself from (social media) abuse, but we do not tolerate lousy services, too. I hope that you also improve your services and prevent the frequent blackouts.” – Rappler.com

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