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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

LOCAL government units and consumers of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 will continue to push for the ouster of the cooperative’s board of directors amidst allegations of bribery in the power supply agreement (PSA) it signed with an independent power producer.

This, even as the National Electrification Administration (NEA) is set to conduct a preliminary investigation on the bribery, according to Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias.

Banias said he received information from Metro Manila that members of the NEA administrative will arrive over the weekend or next week to start the preliminary probe on the Ileco 3 board.

NEA officials did not respond to queries to verify the schedule of the preliminary investigation.

The investigation is in keeping with the recommendations of NEA Legal Department chief Omar Mayo to investigate the board for allegedly receiving money from Applied Research Technologies Philippines Incorporated (Artech) in exchange for the approval of the 25-year PSA.

Mayo, who headed the NEA fact-finding team that looked into the deal, also recommended the rescission of the agreement for its onerous provisions.

Banias said they are also moving for the ouster of the Ileco 3 board and the eventual junking of the PSA.

Banias said the consumers of Ileco 3 and local government units within the cooperative’s area are supportive of the move.

While they respect the NEA probe, Banias said “the resignation of the entire board is the most honorable thing the directors could do.”

“Instead of waiting for any humiliation, they might as well quit their posts,” he added.

The alleged bribery was exposed when Ileco 3 board president Mateo Baldoza confirmed in an interview with Aksyon Radyo last May 5 that he received P150,000 from Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas and Artech officials last July 17 and 21.

Baldoza said he received P75,000 from Tupas during a meeting with Artech officials in the governor’s house in Jaro, Iloilo City. Another P75,000 was handed to Baldoza by a female Artech employee during their special board meeting in a hotel in Iloilo City.

But Tupas and Artech President Reynaldo Uy had denied Baldoza’s allegations.

The NEA, upon recommendation of the fact-finding team, had “deactivated” the Ileco 3 board by assigning project supervisor Eduardo Adlao pending the investigation on the PSA.

Baldoza pinning down Tupas?

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHAT did former Judge Mateo Baldoza tell the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) relative to the power supply agreement (PSA) between Iloilo Electric (Ileco) 3 and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech)?

 

“I told the truth,” said Baldoza, Ileco 3 board of directors president, when asked about his meeting with NBI investigator Arnold Diaz.

 

Baldoza said he cannot give the full details of his testimony to the NBI “because it is confidential.”

 

Baldoza said what he told NBI is the same thing he told Presidential Assistant Raul Banias and other persons regarding the April 17 meeting with Artech officials at the house of Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

Banias earlier told The Daily Guardian that Baldoza informed him about the pressure and the P75,000 cash he received from Tupas, obviously to grease the approval of the PSA between Ileco 3 and Artech.

 

Baldoza also told Banias about the second P75,000 he received from an Artech employee during the Ileco 3 board meeting in Iloilo City last April 21.

 

The former judge also told Joel Tormon of Aksyon Radyo last May 5 about the money he received from Tupas and Artech on those two separate occasions. But Baldoza modified his statement a day later saying a female Artech worker gave the money at Tupas’ house.

 

Tupas had denied giving money to Baldoza although he and provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada admitted that Ileco 3 directors met Artech president Reynaldo Uy at the governor’s house April 17.

 

Tupas and Mejorada said Baldoza has “no credibility” because he kept changing his statement regarding the alleged bribery of Ileco 3 directors.

 

The governor said he only intervened to avert a looming power shortage in Ileco 3 franchise area when its transition supply contract with the National Power Corp. expires next year.

 

Ileco 3 legal counsel Edison Belloga also denied the bribery angle even as he defended the PSA to be advantageous and environment friendly.

 

Banias said he met Baldoza after the latter’s visit to the NBI regional office.

 

“He told me that what he narrated to the NBI was the same as his original statement in an interview with Aksyon Radyo and the information he told me before the issue on the Ileco 3-Artech deal came out in the media,” Banias said.

 

Banias said Baldoza was not able to sign his affidavit narrating the April 17 and 21 meetings “because his lawyer was not present during the meeting at the NBI.”

 

Atty. Diaz, who is in-charged of the investigation, said Baldoza’s statement was substantial to their probe but he declined give details.

 

Banias said Baldoza is also willing to narrate to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) the events leading to the signing and approval of the PSA.

 

“NEA is about to finish its investigation as they already gathered all the facts they need. But the investigators are willing to talk to Judge Baldoza and get his side of the story,” he said.

 

DEATH THREATS

 

Meanwhile, Banias claimed receiving death threats relative to the Ileco 3-Artech deal.

 

Banias said a friend passed to him a text message from an unidentified sender saying that the former will die before June 5.

 

When asked if he still has the threatening message, Banias said he cannot locate the text in his cellphone.

 

“It may have something to do with the Ileco 3 issue because June 5 was supposed to be the schedule of the next hearing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the issue. I did not mind it and I did not report it to the police because I also have my own bodyguards,” Banias said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias will meet with members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in an effort to ease the tension between rival factions of the group.

 

Banias said he will convene the leaders of the Nilo dela Cruz and Stephen Paduano factions of the RPA-ABB Tuesday.

 

“We will bring them together in one venue and try to settle their differences regarding the incidents that happened recently involving their members,” Banias said.

 

The meeting came to fore after Paduano’s group accused the dela Cruz faction of killing Jose Calapardo, a vegetable trader in Leon, Iloilo, last week.

 

Calapardo is believed to be a member of the RPA-ABB Stepehen Paduano faction representing the farmers’ sector.

 

The conflict is believed to be brought about by funds released for the implementation of projects by the national government as part of the peace pact with the rebel group.

 

Banias said they will try to resolve the conflict between the two factions and avoid more violence in the future.

 

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the conflict is a serious peace and order problem in Iloilo and the rest of Western Visayas that must be resolved soon.

 

Meanwhile, Banias said his office released Friday P20,000 each to 18 former rebels under the Social Integration Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process.

 

“We also released P50,000 worth of livelihood package to 24 former rebels,” he added.

Ileco 3 consumers stage an indignation march and rally at the Sara office of Ileco 3. (Photos by Tara Yap)

Ileco 3 consumers stage an indignation march and rally at the Sara office of Ileco 3. (Photos by Tara Yap)

 

Presidential Assistant for Panay Raul Banias and former Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Victorino Salcedo question Baldoza who claimed he received money from Artech. Banias would later walk out from the dialogue.

Presidential Assistant for Panay Raul Banias and former Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Victorino Salcedo question Baldoza who claimed he received money from Artech. Banias would later walk out from the dialogue.

 

Former judge Mateo Baldoza

Former judge Mateo Baldoza

 

 

Banias confirms Baldoza told him about Artech bribe

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

 

AS EARLY as Holy Week, Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias had already learned that the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 board of directors was being pressured to strike a deal with an independent power producer (IPP).

 

Banias said he first got wind of the controversial deal between Ileco 3 and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech) from board president Mateo Baldoza. 

 

“During Holy Week, I received a text message from Judge Baldoza informing me that Governor Niel Tupas is calling the board to a meeting at the governor’s house. He also told me that they were being pressured to accept Artech’s proposal,” Banias said over cable TV program, Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday morning.

 

Banias said Baldoza told him last May 1 about the meeting at Tupas’ house in Jaro, Iloilo City April 21 and the money Baldoza initially claimed to have received from the governor. Two Artech officials – president Reynaldo Uy and vice president Domingo Beltran – were present in the meeting.

 

The retired judge also recounted another envelope filled with cash was given to him last April 21 during a special board meeting in a hotel in Iloilo City.

 

Banias said Baldoza volunteered the same information to other officials and personalities in the 5th congressional district.

 

Last May 5, Baldoza told Aksyon Radyo anchorman Joel Tormon that Tupas gave him an envelope containing P75,000 while saying “Buligan ta lang sila (Let’s help them).”

 

Baldoza said the money may have something to do with the Artech deal which he questioned because of its exorbitant generation charge of P8.56 per kilowatt-hour.

 

But Baldoza contradicted himself in another interview saying a woman from Artech gave the money at Tupas’s house, not the governor.

 

Tupas also denied bribing Baldoza although he confirmed the meeting at his mansion. The governor said he favors the agreement with Artech because the IPP can provide power when Ileco 3’s power supply deal with the National Power Corp. expires next year.

 

Banias said he pities Baldoza, whom he described as an honest and forthright person.

 

“Judge Baldoza is a person of high integrity and probity. Maybe he was guilt-stricken reason why he volunteered the information to me, to other personalities and the media to assuage that guilt. I don’t know why he recanted his statement. If he changed his story, then his credibility is in question,” Banias added.

 

More than 1,000 consumers led by Banias, provincial Board Members Jett Rojas, former board member Victorino Salcedo II, Mayors Ermelita Salcedo of Sara, Elizabeth Salcedo of Concepcion and other local officials held an indignation rally at the Ileco 3 office in Sara while the board was in a meeting.

 

The protesters carried placards denouncing the power supply agreement with Artech and the alleged bribe given to Ileco 3 officials.

 

One placard asked: “Gov. Tupas ngaa ginbaligya mo kami? (Gov. Tupas why did you sell us)?” Another said: “Ileco 3 for sale P150,000 per director for inquiries just contact ARTECH.”

 

Buligi lang da sila ari ang P75,000,” said another placard.

 

The protesters also hanged a streamer at the gates of Ileco 3 compound in Brgy. Preciosa, Sara condemning the power supply agreement with Artech.

 

A dialogue was later held between the Ileco 3 board and local officials to discuss the issues.

 

Banias, Rojas and the mayors queried Baldoza on the alleged bribe but the latter stuck to his latest pronouncements that Tupas did not bribe him. He also said that the money was not meant to favor Artech.

 

“It’s not a bribe. We gave it to the Knights of Columbus because it’s for charity,” Baldoza said during the dialogue.

 

But Banias said he noticed that Baldoza, who is a member of the Knights of Columbus, was shaking and visibly disturbed while denying that the governor was involved.

 

All municipal governments under the Ileco 3 franchise are planning to pass resolutions opposing the 25-year power supply agreement with Artech.

 

Copies of the resolutions will be given to Ileco 3, National Electrification Administration, and the Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy, Banias said.

Ileco 3 consumers nix Artech deal

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DISTRIBUTION utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives (ECs) must make sure that their consumers enjoy ample power supply at the cheapest cost, according to an Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) official.

 

Rauf Tan, ERC commissioner, said these responsibilities of power utilities are embodied in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.

 

“In the Epira, the distribution utilities must look for the cheapest possible source of electricity for the end consumers,” Tan told The Daily Guardian.

 

Tan was reacting to the controversial 25-year power supply agreement between Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 board of directors and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc (Artech).

 

Tan and fellow ERC commissioner Jose Reyes arrived in Iloilo City to conduct a hearing on the petition of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) and Panay Power Corp. regarding the latter’s asset recovery scheme.

 

The ERC officials said Peco and Ilecos 1, 2 and 3 must secure the energy needs of their consumers.

 

How will power distributors go about this?

 

“The utilities should ensure that they have enough power supply contracts to meet the requirements of their customers. They must undergo a competitive process which is expected to result in competitive prices (of power),” Tan said, apparently referring to the bidding process.

 

Under the Epira, all power supply contracts must be submitted to the ERC to establish the pricing mechanism and approval.

 

Tan said Ileco 3 will have to divulge to the commission the process it used to come up with the agreement with Artech.

 

“Ileco 3 will have to answer for that as they must show that the agreement is cost effective,” he added.

 

The Ileco 3 management headed by Dory Joy Canones, Financial Services Department head, assailed the Artech deal because it will drive up the price of electricity by 100%, from P6 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to P12 per kWh.

 

Canones also claimed the management team was not involved in the approval and signing of the agreement.

 

Ileco 3 board president Mateo Baldoza and member Rene Arandilla also questioned the deal because Artech’s generation charge of P8.56 per kWh is higher compared to other IPPs.

 

A study of Ileco 3’s Technical Services Department showed that Global Power’s generation charge is only P4.82 per kWh, Asea One (P5.90 per kWh) and DMCI (P6.60 per kWh).

 

Artech did not join the bidding conducted by the Panay-Guimaras power consortium but made an unsolicited offer to Ileco 3.

 

Baldoza also claimed receiving P150,000 cash from Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and an Artech employee prior to the approval of the agreement.

 

Baldoza later contradicted himself when denied receiving money from Tupas who also denied the allegation.

 

PROBE

 

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) will investigate Ileco 3’s deal with Artech.

 

Percy Crisostomo, head of NEA’s Industrial Relation Development Department, said they will ask the Ileco 3 board to explain why it approved and signed the deal sans approval from NEA.

 

Crisostomo said the Ileco 3 board should have sought NEA’s approval first before signing the agreement with Artech.

 

NEA provides financial, institutional and technical assistance to ECs.

 

Crisostomo said the cooperative’s management team must be involved in negotiations for power supply agreements “because it will implement the policies and decisions of the board.”

 

The bidding process in power supply purchases is also important to ensure that electricity rates are beneficial to the consumers, Crisostomo said.

 

“The bidding will help the cooperative determine which offer from power producers is most beneficial to the clients. The consumers must also be consulted to get their stand on the agreement,” he added.

 

GATHERING STORM

 

Consumers and leaders of towns under Ileco 3 franchise are set to meet and decide on how to oppose the cooperative’s supply agreement with Artech.

 

Ileco 3 covers the towns of Anilao and Banate in the 4th district and Barotac Viejo, San Rafael, Lemery, Ajuy, Concepcion, Sara, San Dionisio, Batad, Estancia, Balasan and Carles in the 5th district.

 

Mayor Elizabeth “Besty” Salcedo said they are disappointed with the deal because Ileco 3 did not consult their constituents before approving the deal.

 

“There was no general assembly or hearing called on this mater. They should have consulted the consumers first,” Salcedo said.

 

Salcedo said she has been calling other mayors in the 5th district to discuss the issue.

 

“I will join the decision of other leaders to move against Ileco because we have to protect the interest of our people who are also consumers,” she said.

 

Earlier, Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias called for the revocation of the Ileco 3-Artech deal.

 

Banias said many leaders are disappointed with the decision of Ileco 3 to strike a deal with the independent power producer.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE board of directors (BoD) of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 should revoke its power supply agreement (PSA) with an independent power producer (IPP), according to Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias.

 

Banias, the former mayor of Concepcion, Iloilo which is under Ileco 3 franchise, said consumers of the cooperative called him to express their indignation against the 25-year deal the Ileco 3 board signed with Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech).

 

Ileco 3 covers the towns of Anilao and Banate in the 4th district and Barotac Viejo, San Rafael, Lemery, Ajuy, Concepcion, Sara, San Dionisio, Batad, Estancia, Balasan and Carles in the 5th district.

 

“Many officials and consumers in the 5th district called me upon learning of the issue to express their disappointment and discontentment with the actions of Ileco 3 directors. I am also a consumer of Ileco 3 because I live in Concepcion and this agreement, if ever it is disadvantageous, will also affect me. Almost all of them are against the agreement,” Banias said.

 

Banias said the Artech deal should be revoked if it will burden Ileco 3 consumers with higher electricity rates.

 

Allegations of bribery have tainted the deal, the more reason why the board should revoke the agreement, Banias added.

 

Banias said he intends to write the Ileco 3 board and other government agencies regarding the issue.

 

“I am still gathering more information on this issue. The moment we find out that this contract is disadvantageous, I will write the board, Department of Energy (DoE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and National Electrification Administration (NEA) to express my sentiments. I am also consulting my lawyer so my letter will have legal basis,” Banias said.

 

If the alleged bribery by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Artech is proven, Banias said the Ileco board does not deserve to stay in office.

 

Banias also lauded Ileco board president Mateo Baldoza for divulging the alleged bribery.

 

“I am happy with his revelations. I know Judge Baldoza because he is related to me. I know his integrity and his probity is beyond doubt. He stood up for the consumers by exposing this alleged bribery,” Banias.

 

Baldoza earlier claimed that Tupas handed to him an envelope containing P75,000 cash during a meeting with Artech officials at the governor’s house April 17.

 

Another P75,000 cash was given to him by an Artech employee in a hotel in Iloilo City during the signing of the PSA April 21.

 

But Baldoza made a complete turnaround, contradicting himself in later media interviews. He said it was a female Artech employee, not Tupas, who handed the first cash-filled envelope.

 

Baldoza said he made a mistake in his first interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo where he tagged Tupas in the alleged bribery.

 

Aside from Baldoza, Ileco 3 director Rene Arandilla and the management team headed by Dory Joy Canones questioned the deal because of Artech’s expensive generation charge of P8.56 per kilowatt-hour.

 

A study by Engr. Antonio Lazarraga, Technical Services Department manager of Ileco 3, showed that Artech’s price per kWh is higher than Global Power (P4.82 per kWh), Asea One (P5.90 per kWh) and DMCI (P6.60 per kWh).

 

Artech’s rates will increase Ileco 3’s charged by 100%, from P6 per kWh to P12 per kWh.

 

Canones said they will question the deal with NEA which regulates electric cooperatives.

 

Anilao Mayor Ma. Teresa Debuque, meanwhile, said they might transfer to Ileco 2 if Ileco 3 insists on the Artech deal.

 

Debuque said she asked officials of other electric cooperatives if they can move out of Ileco 3 franchise.

 

“It would take congressional action if we move out of Ileco 3 because the franchise is approved by Congress. I asked the Sangguniang Bayan to pass a resolution condemning the deal because it will jack up electricity rates by 100%,” Debuque said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A CABINET member has taken interest in the alleged commercialization of excavated earth materials from the P4.26-billion Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP).

 

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said he followed media reports on the IFCP controversy, particularly The Daily Guardian’s story on the alleged sale of excavated soil to private entities.

 

Banias said he is still gathering more facts relative to the issue by meeting officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

 

Banias holds an assistant secretary rank as presidential assistant for Region 6.

 

The controversy was exposed in the media after a group of “concerned citizens of Iloilo City” wrote DENR Regional Executive Director Raul Calderon about the commercialization of the earth materials from the project site.

 

The letter senders said the excavated earth materials are supposed to be utilized in the development of the resettlement site in Brgy. San Juan (Molo) and embankment and backfilling of the portions of the river (left after the rechanneling) which will not anymore be part of the active drainage.

 

But the letter writers claimed that personnel from the Department of Public Works and Highways handling the project and project contractors – Hanjin Corp. and China International Water and Electric Corp. – sell the earth materials to private persons to the disadvantage of the government.

 

Calderon has referred the letter to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) headed by Engr. Leo Van Juguan.

 

Juguan refused to comment on the letter until his office has submitted a memorandum to Calderon on how to act on the issue.

 

Juguan said they might propose a multi-partite investigation on the issue since the project involves various agencies.

 

Engr. Jose Al Fruto, IFCP assistant project manager, had said that excavated soil from the project is not for sale. The materials are disposed to areas identified by the DPWH prior to the implementation of the project in 2006. 

 

Fruto said they prioritize government projects in the disposal of excavated soil.

 

Sources who sought anonymity to freely discuss the issue said foremen, checkers and watchmen hired by Hanjin are allegedly involved in the sale of earth materials to a subdivision developer and two businessmen in Jaro and LaPaz districts.

 

A truckload of soil is sold at P500 to P1,200 depending on the distance of the disposal area from the project site.

 

The excavated soil are hauled to the buyers either noontime or late in the evening to avoid catching too much attention.

 

On Friday, another developer confirmed in an interview with Johnny Diaz of Aksyon Radyo that he bought truckloads of IFCP soil.

 

The developer said a Hanjin personnel offered the excavated soil as backfilling for his subdivision project at P1,200 per truck.

 

The Daily Guardian tried to get the side of Hanjin officials but they were not available.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Senate approved Monday a resolution appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund which will be used to rehabilitate areas of Panay ravaged by Typhoon Frank last year.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, said Senator Edgardo Angara, Senate committee on finance chair, sponsored a bill appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund.

 

“Senator Angara sponsored and adopted House Bill No. 5604 which is sets aside a supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund. He presented the bill in his sponsorship speech in the Senate. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri co-sponsored the bill. The Senate unanimously approved the measure,” Banias told The Daily Guardian.

 

Banias said they expect the Senate to pass the Paglaum Fund bill after two or three sessions after it mustered the senators’ full support.

 

As regards the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme (Snits), which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, Banias said they are confident that the Senate will approve the tax measure.

 

“The support shown by the Senate for the Paglaum Fund gave us confidence that the Snits bill will also be passed smoothly. President Gloria Arroyo has already certified the Paglaum Bill as urgent so we expect its immediate passage,” Banias added.

 

The Snits Bill (House Bill No. 5257) filed by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

The bill is in response to complaints that salaried individuals, whose taxes are automatically withheld by employers from their salaries, shoulder a much bigger share of the government’s income tax collection from individuals. 

 

Earlier reports said the Senate might not pass the Snits Bill because the Department of Finance doubts if the measure will increase tax collections.

 

The Snits is expected to raise some P12 billion, most of which will be allocated to the Paglaum Fund.

 

President Gloria Arroyo earlier ordered the release of some P481 million for “critical” rehabilitation projects in Panay.

 

The P481 million will be used for the replacement of the Tigum Bridge in Cabatuan, Iloilo (P160 million); replacement of the Tubang Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the Daja Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the substructure of B. Aquino Bridge in Leon, Iloilo (P40 million); and replacement of the substructure of Camanggahan Bridge in Guimbal, Iloilo (P60 million).

 

Other rehabilitation projects are the dredging of Aklan River (P100 million) and the Dungon Creek in Iloilo City (P50 million), Pototan Road Slip in Pototan, Iloilo (P30 million) and the Misi-Tampucao Bridge in Lambunao, Iloilo (P21 million).

 

The Department of Public Works and Highways will begin the bidding process of the projects next month while actual works are expected to commence June 2009.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

LOCAL government units (LGUs) in Panay and the rest of Western Visayas should be wary of persons posing as fixers of projects funded by the national government.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, issued the warning after learning that a group from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrived in Iloilo to verify the signatures of municipal mayors affixed in projects funded by national agencies.

 

Banias cited the case of Mayor Elvira Alarcon of Batad, Iloilo whose signature was forged in a set of documents for the release of financial assistance from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

 

“I was able to talk to the husband of Mayor Alarcon, former mayor Pedro Alarcon, who confirmed that NBI agents verified her signature on the documents. They said it was not her signature,” Banias said.

 

Banias said PAGCOR chair Efren Genuino did not discuss any financial assistance to LGUs when the latter arrived in Iloilo City Saturday for the launching of BIDA and Sagip Musmos projects.

 

Earlier reports said the NBI visited 9 to 15 municipal mayors in Western Visayas to verify their signatures in the documents of some government projects.

 

The NBI is following the tracks of a lawyer who posed as a representative of Malacañang to solicit the signatures of mayor for project requests.

 

The alleged lawyer reportedly promised to process the request with Malacañang in behalf of the LGUs.

 

Banias warned local chief executives not to fall for fixers or persons claiming to be emissaries of the national government.

 

“They (LGUs) should not entertain anybody who is not authorized by any government agency or entity to process any project or assistance. They could be fixers who want to use them to earn money,” Banias said.

 

Banias, who is a former mayor of Concepcion, finds it unusual that a person will fix government projects in behalf of LGUs.

 

“I did not encounter such thing when I was mayor,” Banias said. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas will take its chances in requesting the transfer of the 32-megawatt Power Barge 104 from Davao to Panay.

 

The RDC passed last week in Bacolod City a resolution urging President Gloria Arroyo to order the transfer of PB 104 to Panay to ease the acute power shortage in the island.

 

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias confirmed the passage of the RDC resolution which will be endorsed to the Department of Energy.

 

But Banias had earlier said Davao will oppose the transfer of PB 104 to other areas “because they need it for their reserves.”

 

Data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines showed that Panay has a peak demand of 210MW but its supply is only 128MW or a shortage of 82MW.

 

The island draws power from the Cebu-Negros-Panay grid, Panay Power Corp. (PPC), 15MW modular generator sets in Capiz and two power barges stationed in the city and province of Iloilo.

 

Power supply in Panay was imperiled by the turnover of the Panay Diesel Power Plant (PDPP) in Iloilo to its new owner SPC Island Power Corp.

 

Power utilities raised fears of losing some 50MW if SPC does not operate the power plant because of needed rehabilitation works and lack of supply agreement contracts with electric cooperatives.

 

The problem was remedied when the Department of Energy agreed to subsidize the operation of PDPP for five months until SPC has signed supply contracts with Panay utilities.

 

Singapore-based SPC bought PDPP and the Bohol Diesel Power Plant for US$5.7 million last year. The plants were turned over to the company March 25.

 

Officials of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives said new power plants are needed to stabilize the energy situation of the island.

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, special assistant to Panay Electric Co. (Peco) president and CEO Miguel Cacho, said the 164MW coal-fired power plant proposed by Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz district will help stabilize power supply in Iloilo City and the rest of the province.

 

Peco is the sole power distributor in Iloilo City which has a peak demand of 75MW daily.

 

GBPC operates PPC which supplies 61MW to Iloilo City. The rest of the city’s energy requirement comes from the National Power Corp.

PGMA approves P480M for Panay rehab

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

HOPE springs for the P8-billion Paglaum Fund which is needed to rehabilitate areas damaged by typhoon Frank last year.

 

President Gloria Arroyo has approved the release of the initial P480million for  infrastructure projects needed to be constructed to prevent another massive flooding in Panay come rainy season.

 

The President, who was in Boracay Island in Aklan Sunday, also directed Department of Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya to look for funds from other government agencies for the initial Panay rehabilitation works.

 

The initial amount was approved when the President met with House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor, Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores, Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias and Andaya.

 

Part of the fund will be taken from the 2009 calamity fund of the national budget while the rest will be taken from the DPWH and other agencies.

 

Defensor said the money will be used to repair the Tigum Bridge in Cabatuan, Baltazar-Aquino Bridge in Leon and Misi Bridge in Lambunao all in Iloilo province.

 

Part of the fund will also be used for the repair of floodways and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks in Aklan and Iloilo.

 

Mrs. Arroyo called Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to start the bidding for the said projects.

 

Andaya assured Defensor and Banias that they will release the special allotment release order of the projects once the DPWH is done with the bidding.

 

During the meeting, Banias presented to the President his asking for the immediate implementation of the rehabilitation works before the rainy season sets in. The memorandum also detailed the possible scenario if the initial projects are delayed

 

Banias earlier raised the possibility of another massive flooding in Panay if heavily silted rivers and creeks are not dredged during summer season.

 

“Rep. Defensor explained everything to the President about the possible scenario. He was the one who arranged for the meeting so we can come up with immediate solutions,” Banias added.

 

The President announced the release of the funds to the Aklan media before she left Boracay yesterday morning.

Banias fears repeat of historic floods if Paglaum Fund is doomed

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANOTHER massive flooding might devastate the city and province of Iloilo if critical infrastructure projects under the still unfunded P8-billion Paglaum Fund are not realized.

 

This was the grim scenario painted by Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Western Visayas, during the Western Visayas Regional Planning Summit at Iloilo Grand Hotel Thursday morning.

 

“It would be a disaster if the Paglaum Fund is not released before the summer season ends because critical works such as repair and replacement of bridges damaged by typhoon Frank, river and flood control projects and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks will be stalled. These projects are important to prevent another flash flood brought about by typhoons,” Banias said.

 

Banias said he and other Ilonggo leaders have been asking Malacañang to release at least P460million for the repair of vital bridges and dredging of major bodies of water in Panay.

 

The money, which will be released through the Department of Public Works and Highways, will be used to repair the bridges in Cabatuan and Leon, Iloilo and dredging of the rivers in Libacao, Kalibo and Iloilo City.  

 

Banias said he observed that some rivers in Panay are heavily silted which could cause flashfloods in surrounding communities.

 

“In Libacao, Aklan, we cannot see the 3-meter boulders in the rivers because these are already covered by silt. The same is true in Aklan River in Kalibo and the Iloilo River in the city and its creeks. If we don’t dredge these rivers before the rainy season, we might experience the same thing when typhoon Frank hit June last year. Half of the rain that fell during Frank’s height is enough to trigger another massive flooding,” he added.

 

The release of the Paglaum Fund, which is intended to rehabilitate areas of Panay devastated by typhoon Frank, hit a snag with the delay in the passage of the Simplified Income Taxation Scheme (Snits) bill in the Senate.

 

The bill is pending with the committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

 

Snits bill, which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

Some P9billion is expected to be raised from the Snits bill which will fund the Panay rehabilitation efforts, according to Banias.

 

If Snits is approved next month, it would be too late as the payment of individual income tax is set April 15. If no other sources of funds are found, the Paglaum Fund will be released next year.

 

Banias said they continue to coordinate with Malacañang to look for other funding sources to start the critical projects.

 

Undersecretary Joaquin Lagonera of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office called Banias the other day to discuss the possible release of only P460million.

 

Iloilo Jerry Treñas said they asked Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Lagonera to ask President Gloria Arroyo to look for other sources.

 

Treñas said he is worried with the damaged bridges and heavily silted bodies of water which can cause another flooding.

 

“I need not go far. I will just look at the Dungon Creek behind our house and I can see that it is heavily silted. We are worried that if there are heavy rains again, the flood will rise once more,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he is the least concerned about the political backlash of the non-release of the Paglaum Fund “because I am graduating already.”

 

“We are more concerned about the effects of the flood on the people and properties. Among the local leaders in Panay, I was most affected because my house was inundated, my children stayed on the roof and my cars were flooded,” Treñas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ONLY President Gloria Arroyo can save Panay Island from the worsening power shortage brought about by the privatization of Panay Diesel-fired Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo. 

 

Presidential assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said only the President can order the deferment of PDPP’s turnover to SPC Power Corp. on March 26.

 

Banias, along with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Governor Niel Tupas Sr., will meet President Arroyo in Malacañang 4pm Wednesday to request the deferment of SPC’s takeover of the plant.

 

The three officials will present the resolution passed by the Regional Development Council’s infrastructure development committee asking for the postponement of PDPP’s privatization.

 

“All the other solutions such as the deployment of Power Barge 104 from Davao and the 15 megawatt generator sets are not possible anymore. Only the President’s intervention can save us,” Banias said.

 

Electric cooperatives fear that Panay will lose 54MW of electricity once SPC takes over PDPP next week.

 

Energy sector stakeholders said SPC is hesitant to operate the plant because of pricing issue and the rehabilitation of the decades old plant.

 

SPC does not have transition supply contracts with electric cooperatives, thus they are trapped between the prospects of expensive power rates and lack of electricity.

 

The Singaporean firm’s takeover of PDPP is expected to increase power rates in Panay as it will charge the real cost of power which is higher than National Power Corp.’s (Napocor) subsidized rates.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 2 director, said they will sue Napocor, the former owner of PDPP, if their franchise area is plunged into darkness.

 

Ileco 1 general manager Wilfred Billena said the privatization of PDPP should be deferred for the meantime until there is assurance of stable power supply for Panay.

 

SPC remains mum on PDPP’s privatization although industry sources said the Singaporean-based power firm has filed a petition for rate adjustment with the Energy Regulatory Commission before operating the plant.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE turnover of Panay Diesel-fired Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo to SPC Power Corp. will go on as scheduled.

 

Presidential adviser for Western Visayas Raul Banias said the national government will not delay the March 26 turnover of the plant to SPC despite apprehensions that it will worsen the power crisis in Panay Island.

 

Banias said delaying the PDPP turnover is one of the proposals they presented to President Gloria Arroyo and the Department of Energy (DOE) to prevent the power shortage from deteriorating.

 

But Banias said Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes rejected the proposed solution as the sale was already consummated.

 

Reyes also disapproved the transfer of Power Barge 104 in Davao City as it is scheduled for maintenance and repair.

 

“Secretary Reyes instead pushed for power augmentation program which they expect to arrest the looming shortage,” Banias said.

 

The DOE will mount an energy summit with the National Power Corp. (Napocor), SPC and other power sector stakeholders in the island to discuss and solve the energy crisis.

 

SPC Power Corp. (SPC), formerly Salcon Power Corp., won the bidding for the 146.5-megawatt (MW) Panay and 22-MW Bohol diesel power plants.

 

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), which oversees the sale of government’s power assets, said SPC outbid two other firms after submitting the highest offer of $5.86 million for the two plants.

 

Atty. Conrad Tolentino, PSALM spokesman, allayed fears that SPC will not operate PDPP after March 26.

 

Tolentino said while there is no assurance from SPC, it is more logical for the firm to operate the plant so it can recoup its investments.

 

“SPC will lose more if it does not run PDPP,” Tolentino said over Bombo Radyo-Iloilo.

 

Tolentino also said that SPC must first seek the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission before it can jack up prices of electricity. 

 

Energy industry sources said SPC is hesitant to operate PDPP because of the price of electricity.

 

SPC will only run the plant if electric cooperatives agree to pay for the real cost of power which is more expensive than Napocor’s subsidized rates.  

PGMA meddles in Pavia road project fiasco

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has reportedly intervened in the squabble between Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Iloilo 4th Engineering District over a P28-million road project.

Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias said President Arroyo has ordered the concreting of the 3.4-km Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte provincial road in Pavia.

Banias said the President told Executive Secretary Ermita to settle the issue between Gorriceta and 4th district Engr. George Suy on who should handle and what to do with the road project.

Gorriceta, who worked for the release of the P28-million funding of the project, earlier riled at Suy and Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd district, Iloilo) for trying to “hijack” the project upon knowing that the funds were already available.

The mayor first broached the asphalting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road to Banias as part of the Panay rehabilitation efforts.

Banias then endorsed the proposal to DPWH regional director Rolando Asis who forwarded the same to their central office.

Gorriceta later offered to Asis that the municipal government undertakes the road concreting project instead of asphalting. The mayor said the arrangement will be spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between the local government and DPWH.

DPWH assistant regional director Joby Cordon informed Gorriceta last September 4 that some P10.5 million for the road project was released to the DPWH 4th Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Cordon said the money was released upon the request of Rep. Syjuco.

In her letter to DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane dated September 9, Rep. Syjuco said while they support the concreting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, “we object vehemently to the request of the mayor of Pavia to administer the work.”

“Simply just like the rest of us, the town should limit its affairs to local governance and should not be in the construction business of national government public projects. The DPWH is the sole agency for public projects which it (sic) may itself administer or bid out to qualified contractors. The town is not a business entity that can undertake the business of national government public works construction,” Syjuco said.

Gorriceta said he was surprised when Suy informed him last September 5 that the project was awarded to Patrila Construction Co. through negotiated contract.

Suy, according to Gorriceta, said the scope of work is “repair and restoration” by filling the road with dakal-dakal (sand and gravel), not asphalting nor concreting because they will just “restore” the gravel road to its original form.

The mayor said he is equally surprised by Syjuco’s sudden interest in the project “when before they said they don’t want to touch provincial road projects.”

“Why the sudden interest (in the project)? Before, then Congressman Augusto Syjuco said they don’t want to fund provincial roads because it is the work of the provincial government. But when they learned that there are available funds for the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, they intervened,” Gorriceta said.

Suy denied Gorriceta’s claim saying the mayor misunderstood him. He said they have yet to award the project to any contractor and that the P10.5 million is still intact.

Suy’s denial prompted Gorriceta to call the latter a “liar” over live radio interviews the past days.

Suy said they will still evaluate the capabilities of the Pavia municipal government in undertaking the road project.

“If the mayor really wants to administer the project, he can always submit his proposal so we can evaluate it. Or the Iloilo provincial government can also ask the Department of Budget and Management to transfer the fund from the 4th Engineering Office to the Capitol. Bahala na mag-usap ang provincial government at si Mayor Gorriceta,” Suy said.

Asis said that in order for Pavia to handle the project, it must have undertaken a similar road construction with a contract price at least 50 percent of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte project.

Asis said the municipal government must have ample technical personnel and equipment for the project.

Gorriceta said he is happy with President Arroyo’s move to intervene in the issue and order the road concreting project.

“At least, we got what we want which is to put up a concrete road. Our people in the area won’t suffer from dust and mud anymore when the project is realized. And most of all, we were able to protect people’s money from falling in wrong hands,” Gorriceta said.

The mayor also thanked Banias and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who chairs the Task Force Panay, for bringing the road project issue to the President’s attention.

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