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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE sole distribution utility in Iloilo City is set to introduce the prepaid retail electric service (PRES) to residential consumers.

Randy Pastolero, operations manager of Panay Electric Co. (PECo), said they are waiting for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to issue the rules and guidelines on the implementation of PRES.

“The ERC has approved the rules already and we are awaiting its issuance so we can study the implementation and draft our own internal system. Once we have studied the rules, we will notify our consumers about the new system,” Pastolero said.

PRES is an electric service that uses a prepaid metering system designed to allow a residential customer to purchase credit or load and then use electricity until such time his load is exhausted.

The ERC approved the rules on PRES July 13 after a series of consultations since last year.

Pastolero said they see several advantages in the implementation of PRES.

“Primarily, it will compel consumers to manage their power consumption which will redound to more efficient generation and distribution of electricity. It will also curb, if not eliminate, power pilferage resulting in lower systems losses. Lower systems losses will mean reduction of additional charges on consumers,” he said.

The ERC allows distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to charge consumers for systems losses or electricity lost in distribution lines due to pilferage and other technical reasons.

Power distributors can only collect a maximum of 9.5% systems losses charges on monthly bills.

Power utilities will also reduce their overhead expenses with the implementation of PRES because “we don’t have to employ meter readers,” Pastolero said.

“Our manpower will shrink because of the prepaid retail system and we will eliminate incidence of wrong meter readings which is common in the traditional metering system,” he added. 

Pastolero said a firm supplying digital prepaid electric meters in the US has presented its product to them recently.

The digital prepaid meter features a magnetic strip which will scan and load electricity prepaid cards.

“The load in the prepaid card will convert the amount to allowable kilowatt per hour based on the prevailing rates. Once loaded, the meter will turn on and supply electricity. We are also studying other prepaid metering technologies,” Mr. Pastolero said.

PECo will require the meter supplier to be accredited and their gadgets calibrated by the ERC.

“Our only concern is that the cost of the digital prepaid meters might affect the operations cost of the distribution utility. From what we learned, the digital meter is triple the price of traditional meters. Maybe the ERC will allow us to gradually recover the costs in procuring the meters,” Pastolero said.

Pastolero said consumers can determine their consumption by calculating the wattage of their appliances and lights.

“PECo will devise a way to help the consumers calculate their consumption and the amount of prepaid card they will buy,” he added.

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IBC supports move to exempt power from VAT

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo Business Club (IBC) is planning to come up with a statement supporting the proposal to scrap the value added tax (VAT) on electricity.

 

The plan was broached by businessman Herminio Maravilla, former IBC chair and incumbent Board of Trustees member, during the Power 101 forum at Hotel del Rio Friday last week.

 

IBC executive director Lea Lara said the club’s board and officers will discuss the manifesto in their next membership meeting on the first week of May.

 

The statement will basically rally behind the proposal of Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile to scrap VAT on power.

 

“The specific contents of the statement will be discussed during the meeting. It will definitely be a big help to the business community and other consumers if VAT is removed from our electricity rates. As we all know, the city is having a hard time attracting investors because of high and unstable power rates,” Lara said.

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, special assistant to Panay Electric Co. (PECO) president Miguel Cacho, said they welcome the move of the IBC to call for the exemption of electricity from VAT charges.

 

Pastolero said 11% of the total production cost of electricity per kilowatt goes to VAT.

 

“PECO does not earn from VAT because we just remit it to the government. If VAT on electricity is scrapped, we can enjoy some P1.10 reduction in our power bills,” Pastolero said.

 

Pastolero said PECO will also benefit from the club’s move “because it would be easier to collect from our clients if their monthly bills are reduced.”

 

Earlier, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Inc. (FCCCII) president Alfonso Uy said solving the unstable and expensive power supply in Iloilo City will help propel its economy.

 

Uy said they are batting for the construction of cheap source of power such as the 164MW coal-fired power plant project of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

‘Consumers can expect interest on their money’

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PANAY Electric Co. (Peco), Iloilo City’s sole power distributor, will start refunding the meter deposits, amounting to some P26 million in principal alone, of almost 50,000 consumers January 2009.

 

But how much will the consumers receive from the distribution utility?

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, executive assistant to Peco president Miguel Cacho, said the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) set three formulas for the computation of meter deposit interest outlined in ERC Resolution No. 8-2008.

 

Residential customers as well as non-residential customers who paid their meter deposits prior to the implementation of Energy Regulatory Board (ERB) Resolution 95-21 will earn 6% percent interest per year. ERB Resolution 95-21 is the standard rules governing electrical power services promulgated September 22, 1995.

 

The second formula was based on Resolution No. 95-21 when the ERB validated that meter deposit and the interest rate at that time was 10% per year. The ERB is the predecessor of the ERC which regulates power producers, distributors and other players in the energy industry.

 

When the ERC was created, the commission issued the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers and the Distribution Services which pegged the interest rates for meter deposits at 6% per year starting year 2005.

 

Pastolero said they have no choice but to refund the meter deposits of their consumers “because we were ordered by our regulator to do so.”

 

Consumers have three options on how to avail the refund – cash refund through a check issued by Peco; application of the refund on outstanding accountability of the consumer; or use the refund for future billings. 

 

What if a consumer already died? To whom will the refund go?

 

Pastolero said the heirs of the dead consumers are entitled for the refund provided they present the death certificate of the consumer and identification documents.

 

The Peco executive said they will schedule the release of refund to avoid consumers from crowding their office.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WILL another call center investor pull out from Iloilo City because of expensive electricity?

 

Reports came out yesterday that Callbox, Inc., the first business processes outsourcing (BPO) investor in the city, is planning to transfer its Iloilo operations to another location.

 

The main reason is the expensive power rates of Panay Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in the city.

 

Top Callbox officials headed by chief executive officer Rom Agustin met Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas to discuss their concerns regarding the city’s power situation.

 

Treñas confirmed the meeting with Callbox executives who raised their concerns about the city’s expensive power rates.

 

“Namahalan na gid sila (They find it very expensive). But they did not broach the possibility of relocating to other areas,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he will try to help resolve the issue to save the employment generated by the BPO firm.

 

Callbox sources said they are also wondering why brownouts continue to happen despite Peco’s high rate of electricity presently pegged at P13 per kilowatt-hour.

 

But Glen Norris, Callbox chief operating officer, said the report on their plans to leave Iloilo is “interesting but not true.”

 

“We are not leaving,” Norris said in a text message.

 

Expensive power rates is one of the main stumbling blocks to Iloilo’s investment growth as pointed out by previous Philippine Cities Competitiveness surveys conducted by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

 

According to its official website, Callbox is a full service sales and marketing firm that provides outbound and inbound sales solutions, creative marketing support, and database services.

 

Callbox complements the sales process of businesses, enabling them to accelerate revenue growth and market capture with its global database and cutting-edge service delivery systems. By providing valuable insight on best practices and top notch sales support, Callbox allows businesses to focus on developing their products and services.

 

Launched in Los Angeles, California, Callbox provides global market access to leading industries such as software and technology services, financial, medical and business services from its offices in the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

 

Callbox is operating in the cities of Iloilo, Davao and Makati.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

LOOMING power and water crises are bugging the Iloilo City government this holiday season.

For one, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) has yet to install the 15 units of modular diesel power generator in Iloilo City to augment the metropolis’ electricity. With this, Mayor Jerry Treñas said he is apprehensive power blackouts will occur when the city celebrates Christmas and New Year.

Last year, the whole metropolis was plunged in darkness but Panay Electric Co. (Peco) and Panay Power Corp. said the outages were man-made and technical in nature.

The generator sets supposed to be installed before December in a Peco-owned lot at Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao are part of Napocor’s commitment to the city to supply 15 megawatts of power through a direct interconnection agreement with Peco mandated by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Early this year, Napocor installed the first batch of the same 15 generator sets at the Capiz Electric Cooperative compound in Panit-an, Capiz to augment power supply in the province and parts of northern Iloilo.

This is in response to the order of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the Department of Energy and Napocor to solve the acute power shortage in Panay, especially in Iloilo City.

Meanwhile, Panay Power Corp. continues as the main supplier of electricity to Iloilo City which has currently a peak demand of 76MW. This December, the city’s power demand may exceed 90MW.

Aside from power shortage, the City government is also grappling with acute water shortage. The problem is more pronounced in the 11 Waterfront barangays who were supposed to meet the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) board of directors around 2pm Thursday. The meeting did not push through as the punong barangays walked out after an hour of waiting for the directors to meet them.

The meeting was aimed at resolving the water shortage at the Waterfront whose residents are now restive over MIWD’s minimum fee of P159. Residents said no water comes out of their faucets but they continue to pay the water firm.

Punong Barangay Roberto Divinagracia said Waterfront barangays are forced to buy water by the gallons from private sources.

Divinagracia, president of the Association of Barangay Captains-Iloilo City proper district, said they will make a position letter asking MIWD to waive the minimum fee until normal water supply returns to the waterfront area.

BILLING POLICY

In a news release issued yesterday, the MIWD issued a new billing policy on areas that have no water supply.

In consonance with the resolution passed by the MIWD board of directors the other day. the water firm decided to condone the payment of water bills in some MIWD service areas experiencing water shortage.

Engr. Edgar Calasara, MIWD officer-in-charge, said water bills which have zero to five cubic meter (0-5cu. m.) consumption reading shall not be delivered anymore provided that the water district’s engineering department certifies that such area has no water for the period.

Water bills that were delivered to concessionaires shall not be paid provided that said billing bears 0-5 cu. m. consumption reading and are certified by the Engineering Department as within an area without water supply for the period.

If the consumer has paid the bill in any authorized MIWD collecting banks or payment outlets, the amount shall be retained and considered advanced payment for future water bills.

Calasara said the policies shall be effective November 1 to December 31, 2008, unless extended by another board resolution.

He, however, said that consumers in areas where there is a steady supply of water are obliged to pay their monthly water bills.

Calasara also assured the consumers that MIWD is doing everything to fast track the permanent repair of its damaged pipe and the ongoing cleaning of its reservoir in order to restore water in areas where there is intermittent supply, particularly in Jaro and the Waterfront.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are more than willing to help Iloilo City’s sole power distributor run after power pilferers.

But there’s a caveat: heads must roll and charges must be filed against these thieves.

Engr. Randy Pastolero of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) said they sought the help of the PNP and the NBI in securing their personnel involved in apprehending power thieves.

Pastolero said they aim to lower their systems loss, which is pegged at 9 percent, by clamping down on residents who tap illegally to Peco lines.

Atty. Mario Sison, NBI regional director, said they are willing to help Peco’s campaign against pilferers “provided they file cases against erring persons.”

Sison said Peco must sue power thieves instead of just collecting arrears and fines.

“We might bear the brunt of things if no charges are filed against those caught stealing electricity from Peco,” Sison said.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PNP regional director, said they are willing to provide security personnel to Peco during their operations.

Cuevas said a patrol-load of police personnel will escort Peco people if they apprehend pilferers in Iloilo City.

Pastolero said they are set to apprehend several personalities, including an unidentified government official, suspected of stealing electricity from the distribution firm.

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