Energy development has become an all-time challenge to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Electric cooperatives in most of BARMM’s five component provinces are heavily indebted to the Power Sector Assets, Liabilities and Management as well as to the National Electrification Administration, according to EC representatives during a recent energy summit hosted here by the United Nations Development Program and BARMM’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy.
Electric cables of distribution lines and poles would have to be upgraded in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan and so are the household wirings—most of which were installed in the 1970s or even in the 60s, EC executives said.
For its part, the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Magelco) is back to shape in recent years from being an ailing EC in 2014. Magelco is currently replacing old poles and cable lines, initially, along the National Highway from Datu Odin Sinsuat town to Ampatuan toward the southeast.
Sultan Engineer Ashary Maongco, Magelco General Manager, shares a thin cut of that technocratic wit that enables him to push a multi-million rehabilitation program amid a situation of low-rate revenue returns from monthly collection of electric bills among clientele of consumers with batting average at bills payment being quite unimpressive, if not outright wanting.
MENRE Minister Al-Mansoor Macacua says executives of the region’s ECs want BARMM to intervene through debt servicing utilizing part of the region's financial resources of P60 billion in annual block grant budget from the national government. But BARMM is not keen on a debt buy-back scheme.
Instead, it wants the ECs’ debts written-off by the national government through the Department of Finance. Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM minister of the interior and local governments, says a debt write-off option can be worked on through the intergovernmental body on the budget and finance in which the national government is represented by the Secretary of Finance, and the BARMM by its Chief Minister.
“I pity myself; but I am glad that we are able to serve the Moro people in a very peculiar situation; a domain of an EC management clientele in the midst of armed conflict which inevitably breeds a culture of defiance even to lawful dues like prompt payment of monthly electric bills,” Maongco said.
As of 2015, Magelco had an outstanding debt of P1 billion with PSALM and P123 million with the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP). However, Maongco says the Magelco management has been able to resolve debt servicing with the NGCP by paying P9 million monthly from a now-improved level of revenues in monthly collections of electric bills.
Maongco says a grant from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has helped Magelco initially carry a P 300 million rehabilitation program, with P100 million worth of materials, including concrete poles and cable distribution lines. “But where will I get the other two-thirds of the amount needed to fund the Magelco rehabilitation program?” Maongco asked.
Some corporate partnership, Maongco says, is shaping up by which a commitment is considered on a prospect of funding the cost of poles and of mounting them as advanced payments to a long-term rental agreement. He declined to divulge further details, apart from saying that this approach, like a “mathematical formula,” is working effectively for the interest of Magelco and its consumers.
Maongco, a U.S.-trained technocrat, says he hopes to finish the rehabilitation of Magelco’s distribution lines before he retires in two years. But observers keen on energy development in the region say Maongco has the professional and technocratic capability in his managerial skills and ability to help chart BARMM’s course to modernizing and expanding its regional electrification program.
This fasting month of Ramadan, Magelco management touches on its consumers’ religiosity, reminding them that being honest and straightforward is a great lesson during the season. A white pickup truck carries the bold “DISCONNECTION” on tarpaulin and plays a recorded message of greeting in the fasting season and a reminder of good deeds in human endeavors in paying electric bills.
The other half of the recorded message reminds consumers that human relations fail and sin is committed by stealing current in unauthorized household series connections.