Power supply to be fully restored by December

Power supply will be fully restored in all 11 towns of the island by next month, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) said last Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, following the arrival of Task Force Kapatid and MERALCO personnel who would help in the super typhoon “Rolly” rehabilitation effort.

General Manager Engr. Raul T. Zafe assured Administrator Edgardo Masongsong of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) that the cooperative was set to begin energization of Virac poblacion beginning at the capitol area on Nov. 10, with 46 poles already installed along the highway from the cooperative headquarters in Marinawa, Bato.

The restoration of power, which the GM earlier estimated would take up to two months to complete, is expected to speed up following the arrival of three teams of linemen and trucks from Benguet Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BENECO) to assist FICELCO’s four teams in the southern part of the island as well as two more in the less damaged northern towns.

Seventeen more teams composed of 94 linemen from the Central Luzon Electric Cooperatives Association (CLECA), complete with boom trucks and support vehicles, are already working to help restore power in Camarines Sur, with the group to proceed to Virac soonest.

Accompanied by Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PhilRECA) president and partylist Rep. Pressly de Jesus, Reynaldo Villanueva of Nueva Ecija Electric Cooperative and Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) president Edwin Lamadrid, the NEA official was met at Virac airport by TGP partylist Rep. Jose Teves Jr. and coop officials led by GM Zafe and Board Pres. Rodolfo Vargas.

In his message to the cooperative personnel, Administrator Masongsong said NEA wants cooperatives affected by the super typhoon to immediately send a purchase order to fast-track the purchase of needed materials and equipment from suppliers who will release the items even without advance payment.

“Saka na lang tayo mag-iisip kung saan kukuha ng pambayad,” he stated, informing GM Zafe that the board’s request for calamity assistance is deemed approved.

He described the P454-million damage wrought by Rolly on FICELCO’s distribution lines as “a blessing in disguise” as this gives the cooperative the opportunity to upgrade said lines and transformers using the free labor in the form of Task Force Kapatid and MERALCO.

The cost of materials, estimated to be about P300 million, can be sourced from a partnership with a private investor, instead of banks whose short term loans would raise power cost, he added.

He also suggested that it secure financing from the Rural Electrification Financing Corp., which has granted loans to electric cooperatives for their capital expenditures with no collateral and no hold-out deposit requirement.

“Your thinking should be strategic,” Masongsong urged. “The issues among EC member-consumer-owners are reliability, efficiency and affordability.”

Members always blame the cooperative because they do not understand reliability indices used to rate an EC’s performance as far as reliability is concerned, he said.

He likewise encouraged FICELCO management to invest in resiliency measures, including underground distribution lines just like in Batanes.

The NEA official disclosed that the Electric Cooperative Rehabilitation Fund (ECRF), used in cases of calamity as reimbursement for costs shouldered by ECs, did not include allocations for areas hit by typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

He likewise counseled coop officials and employees to join the One EC Network Foundation, which could help ensure their future through monthly contributions ranging from P20 to as much as several thousands.

The foundation could also help defray the cost of providing food for the personnel of the Power Restoration Rapid Deployment (PRRD) Task Force Kapatid.

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