DoF: IPPAs, electricity co-ops owe PSALM P59.23B in unpaid bills

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By Victor V. Saulon

SOUTH PREMIERE Power Corp. (SPPC), a unit of listed conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), topped the list of entities with the biggest unpaid loans to the government agency tasked to privatize state energy assets, the Finance department said on Tuesday.

SPPC and other independent power producer administrators (IPPA), along with electricity cooperatives, dominate the list of corporate entities with long overdue accounts with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) amounting to a combined P59.23 billion as of December 2018, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a statement.

The overdue debts of the SMC subsidiary amounts to P19.75 billion, it said. A representative of the company said the issue surrounding the supposed unpaid debts is still in the court. The representative also said SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang was out of the country, but a response is being prepared.

A report by PSALM to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who chairs the firm’s board of directors, showed that several IPPAs have unpaid accounts of P28.46 billion as of end-2018, the DoF statement said. It said some of the IPPAs are contesting the amounts due in courts or in arbitral tribunals.

Many of the accounts were transferred by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to PSALM when Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), was enacted.

IPPAs are qualified private entities that manage output from the energy conversion and power purchase agreements that Napocor entered into with the independent power producers. They are appointed through public biddings conducted by PSALM.

SPPC led by Elenita G. Go, its president, administers the 1,277-megawatt Ilijan gas-fired power plant in Batangas City. PSALM earlier terminated the IPPA, but the move was enjoined by the courts.

“Due to these overdue accounts, the government through PSALM is constrained to resort to borrowings that the national government guarantees, in order for PSALM to timely fulfill its mandate of liquidating the financial obligations of [Napocor],” said Irene Joy B. Garcia, PSALM president and chief executive officer.

She said last year, the firm borrowed about P23 billion to pay its maturing obligations, and that it is set to borrow $1.1 billion for obligations maturing by the end of May. As a result, it had to pay interest, guarantee fees and other finance charges of about P2.62 billion a year. Had the IPPAs and electric cooperatives paid, PSALM would not incur the additional costs, she added.

In the statement, Mr. Dominguez said “all these borrowing costs could have otherwise been utilized by the government for the construction of public school classrooms or to build roads and bridges.” It added that he instructed PSALM to “relentlessly” pursue collection efforts against the IPPAs and use all available remedies to protect the rights of the government and the Filipino people.”

DoE said Vivant-Sta. Clara Northern Renewables Generation Corp. (Vivant-Sta. Clara), formerly owned by Vivant Energy and Sta. Clara Power Corp., owes P3.86 billion to PSALM, which awarded it an IPPA contract for the Bakun Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ilocos Sur. It also said Vivant-Sta. Clara filed a petition for rehabilitation.

The renewable energy company was bought by North Renewable Energy Corp. in October last year, but the DoF said despite the change in ownership, no payment had been made to PSALM for its overdue accounts.

Sought for comment, Shem Jose W. Garcia, Vivant assistant vice-president for corporate communication, said the debts piled up because of the combination of low prices at the wholesale electricity spot market, and the dry weather. The hydro project is reliant on the flow of water, he added.

“We knew that was an issue when we sold it so the new buyers were aware,” Mr. Garcia said by phone.

The DoF said Good Friends Hydro Resources Corp. of Lucio Lim Jr. has yet to pay PSALM P1.16 billion, while FDC Utilities, Inc. led by Juan Eugenio Roxas as its president-CEO and a subsidiary of Filinvest Development Corp., owes P1.12 billion. Both IPPAs were involved with the contract to administer the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plants.

A Filinvest Utilities subsidiary, the FDC Misamis Power Corp., a subsidiary of FDC Utilities, also owes PSALM P2.56 billion, as the previous IPPA for the Mindanao I and II geothermal power plants, it added.

The PSALM report also listed 10 electric cooperatives and industries with unpaid obligation to PSALM at a combined total of P28.74 billion as of end-2018. The Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (Lasureco) has the highest and longest overdue account at P9.63 billion that dates back 16 years, the report said.

Edgardo R. Masongsong, administrator of the National Electrification Administration (NEA), said in a text message that as far as electric cooperatives are concerned, only PSALM has the data and is familiar with what is due it.

He said in most cases, those in distress, as listed by the DoF, encounter difficulties in settling their obligations with the company.

He said in the case of Lasureco, what it owes came from a principal amount of P3 billion.

“The P6 billion or thereabouts can be attributed to interests and surcharges compounded thru the years,” Mr. Masongsong said.

“Although Lasureco owes that much to PSALM, it has no intentions of reneging on its obligations and recognizes that these were long overdue. We at NEA believe that all these electric cooperatives need are proper assistance and enough capacitation which the present NEA extends to rehabilitate ECs so that in the near future, these indebtedness to PSALM can finally be settled.”

Janeene D. Colingan, executive director and general manager of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Inc., did not respond to a query via text or phone on Tuesday.

Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola, who was recently in Mindanao to oversee an issue on an electric cooperative, also did not respond.

PSALM said Public Utilities Department of Olongapo City, although no longer a client, still owes P6.07 billion in obligations, representing more than nine years of overdue power bills, over 10 years of unpaid value-added tax (VAT) payments, and five years of penalties and interest.

It is second on the list of the top 10 entities consisting of electricity cooperatives and industries with long overdue accounts with PSALM.

PICOP Resources Corp., a defunct company previously owned by TP Holdings, Inc. is third with pending overdue accounts since 2008, which now amounts to P2.96 billion.

Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. has P2.61 billion of unpaid power bills, VAT and interest and penalties. Its unpaid account dates back to 2006. It is no longer PSALM’s customer and is now known as the Albay Power Energy Corp.

Others on the list are Maguindanao Electric Cooperative, Inc., which has P1.76 billion in unpaid obligations of more than 10 years of overdue power bills; Global Steelworks International, Inc., now known as Global Steel Philippines, a subsidiary of Global Steel Holdings Ltd., with an unpaid account since 2009 and overdue power bills amounting to P1.68 billion.

In seventh place is Pampanga III Electric Cooperative Inc., with P1.27 billion in unpaid obligations, with at least four years overdue in its restructured account and more than two years of interest and penalties. The cooperative has requested for a restructuring of its account, PSALM said.

Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative Inc. is next with P1.24 billion in overdue obligations. PSALM said negotiations are ongoing on the coops overdue restructured account and power bills.

The rest are the defunct Magellan Cogeneration, Inc., which used to be controlled by Covanta Energy and has P750.86 million in unpaid obligations; followed by the former Bacnotan Steel Corp., now known as Union Galvasteel Corp. of the Phinma Corp., with P743.68 million.

PSALM said that besides the Lanao del Sur cooperative and the other electric cooperatives on the top 10 list, five other electric cooperatives were among the firms with the largest pending obligations.

These are Northern Samar Electric Cooperative Inc. with P742.13 million in overdue line rentals, restructured account, power bills and VAT. A revised restructuring scheme was signed with the coop in November last year, PSALM said.

Also on the list is Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative Inc. with P510.15 million in overdue power bills, restructured account, VAT and interest and penalties. Samar I Electric Cooperative Inc. with P303.04 million in unpaid restructured account, power bills, VAT and line rentals. A revised restructuring scheme was signed by the coop with PSALM last Nov. 29, the report said.

Zamboanga del Sur II Electric Cooperative Inc. has an overdue account since 2017 that now amounts to P275.69 million. Sorsogon I Electric Cooperative has unpaid obligations of P206.23 million to PSALM with overdue restructured account. PSALM said it has negotiations with the coop for the settlement of its outstanding obligations.