By Albert F. Arcilla, Correspondent
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Financially troubled Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco) is aiming to finally award an investment management contract (IMC) by Aug. 2 after two bidders submitted letters of intent.
“As of the moment, two bidders are interested to participate in the bidding, the Aboitiz Power Corp., and the Crown Investment Holding, Inc.,” Zamcelco President Omar A. Sahi said in an interview with the local media here last week.
Among the companies that earlier backed out of a potential IMC is Manila Electric Co.-Comstech Integration Alliance, Inc. (Meralco-Comstech), Zamcelco announced last week.
A dialogue held last week was attended by local officials and representatives of Zamcelco and its suppliers to discuss the cooperative’s “ailing financial condition,” according to a statement from the Zamboanga City government.
During the meeting, one of the suppliers, the Alsons Group’s Western Mindanao Power Corp. (WMPC), vowed not to cut supply as Zamcelco has started paying outstanding dues of more than P258 million.
WMPC supplies 50 megawatts to Zamcelco.
The electric cooperative’s other suppliers are the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., Enfinity Philippines, and San Miguel Power Corp. with total payables reaching P948.5 million.
Zamcelco officials said their projected monthly collection is P370 million, operating at a system loss rate of 22%.
Edgardo F. Ancheta, Zamcelco general manager, said while “the cooperative is intensifying anti-pilferage campaigns and pursuing restructuring schemes to meet its obligations,” the IMC “is the best move” to resolve its financial difficulties.
“Every month, Zamcelco is losing roughly P20 million due to system loss,” Rikki Lim, one of Zamcelco’s board members, said.
Zamboanga City Representative Celso L. Lobregat, meanwhile, said in a radio interview here that two important issues need to be included in Zamcelco’s new attempt for an IMC.
“The new ruling of the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) should be included in the terms of reference and the bidders should have the track record on running a power distribution,” Mr. Lobregat said.
In February this year, the ERC announced it has reduced the allowable percentage of system loss for electric cooperatives to a range of 8.25% to 12%.
The Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (ZCCIFI) has proposed that the National Electrification Administration (NEA) immediately take over Zamcelco to curb further problems.
ZCCIFI President Pedro Rufo N. Soliven said Section 31 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 authorized NEA to step in to provide institutional, financial, and technical assistance to cooperatives in trouble.
“To ensure the economic and financial viability and operation of all electric cooperatives: restructuring ailing electric with the end in view of making it economically and financially viable,” Mr. Soliven said.
Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.