Even using its own teams of linemen and at least two Task Force Kapatid teams from the mainland, power will be restored to all 315 barangays of Catanduanes by April 23, 2021, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) reported last week.
FICELCO General Manager Engr. Raul V. Zafe told members of the Catanduanes Island Media Club (CIMC) that it expects electric service to be restored to 93.1 percent of all households on the island by the end of March, leaving only the four Panay island barangays of Panganiban and Bagamanoc.
As of Mar. 4, 36,053 households or 88.9 percent now have power, with Pandan and Caramoran still the only towns to have all homes restored.
But based on actual billed consumers, the restoration rate is 85.2 percent of the 55,658 active house connections, with 2,999 totally damaged houses no longer considered for re-energization.
On a per barangay bases, the cooperative has restored electricity to its distribution lines in 258 barangays or 81.90 percent of the total, broken down by town as follows: Bagamanoc, 15 of 18 (83%); Baras, 16 of 29 (51%); Bato, 25 of 27 (92%); Caramoran, 27 of 27 (100%); Gigmoto, 3 of 9 (33%); Pandan, 26 of 26 (100%); Panganiban, 19 of 23 (82%); San Andres, 28 of 38 (71%); San Miguel, 12 of 24 (50%); Viga, 26 of 31 (83%); and, Virac, 61 of 63 (96%).
This represents 80 percent of the 547 kilometers of distribution lines , with only 90 kilometers remaining for restoration and re-energization, the report stated.
Super typhoon Rolly broke a total of 1,527 primary poles and 999 secondary poles, and left leaning 1,393 others, with majority having broken pole top assembly.
As of last week, linemen working on the un-energized areas still have to erect a total of 436 primary and secondary poles.
On the other hand, two teams are working hard to restore the nearly 19-kilometer backbone line between Baras and Gigmoto, including the re-routing of the line to its nearest road network to facilitate easy repair and restoration the next time.
Nine teams from FICELCO are still working in the restoration of primary and secondary lines as well as in service dropping in six towns. The two mainland co-op teams from Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (CANORECO) and Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative II (CASURECO II) left for home Saturday, Mar. 6, with another team from Sorsogon Electric Cooperative II supposed to arrive last week along with another from CASURECO IV.
By the end of this month, power is set to be 100% restored to barangays in Bato (Mar. 13), Virac (Mar. 23) and Viga (Mar. 25), while those in Baras (68.96%), Gigmoto (33.33%), Panganiban (91.30%), San Andres (92.11%) and San Miguel (75%) will have to wait for a few more days.
FICELCO identified barangays where power may not be restored by Mar. 31, 2021 as Sta. Maria, San Miguel, Guinsaanan, Abihao, Puraran, Benticayan, JM Alberto, Agban and Genitligan, all in Baras; Dororian, Biong, San Pedro, San Vicente, Sioron and Sicmil, all in Gigmoto; Dayawa, Siay, Pacogon, San Marcos, Tobrehon, and JM Alberto, all in San Miguel; Panay and Babaguan in Panganiban; Suchan and Quigaray in Bagamanoc; and, JMA Asgad, San Vicente and San Isidro, all in San Andres.
GM Zafe said that out of the P227-million damage sustained by FICELCO, the cooperative has incurred P107 million in expenses including obligations to its suppliers of poles, wires and other materials needed in the restoration.
Only P25 million released so far by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) as loan assistance, prompting the cooperative to apply for a P100-million loan with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) so it could satisfy its creditors.
Zafe said its supplier has yet to deliver the coop’s order of 35-footer poles, perhaps waiting for the payment of previously-delivered materials.
He added that the cooperative has been using a portion of its cash collections and savings, as well as the DPWH’s payment for the removal of electric posts in widening projects, to partially satisfy its suppliers.
Whereas before its collection efficiency ranged from 98 to 100%, it now has dropped to 93% after the national government implemented and then extended the no-disconnection policy during the pandemic quarantine.
FICELCO is also filing an application for a force majeure capital expenditure with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to enable the cooperative to recover its costs.
It would also propose to the Annual General Membership Meeting this year the creation of a Resiliency Fund, to be financed by an additional P0.10 per kiliowatt-hour to be billed each consumer. This would raise at least P6 million per year for use as a calamity fund in case of typhoon damage, the GM added.
The management also said that the Board of Directors headed by Pres. Rodolfo Vargas has passed a resolution approving a P400 daily wage for electricians joining the restoration effort, after some whined about the minimum wage of P310 per day.
He reported that in Hicming and Dugui barangays in Virac, residents and officials promised to help in the erection of poles by providing lunch for the workers.
In Viga, GM Zafe disclosed, the Rural Health Unit ordered a stop to the restoration activity and placed the entire team under quarantine after a supervisor tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the cooperative’s Competitive Selection Process (CSP) for a new power supplier is being pursued.
This would assure enough power for a forecast 19-megawatt peak load by 2024, which is over twice the P7.9-mW contracted power to be supplied by Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO).
Although the second amendment of its Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) with FICELCO allows SUWECO to supply whatever additional energy the cooperative needs, this amendment has been superseded by a Department of Energy (DOE) ruling requiring all future power needs to be sourced via CSP.
SUWECO was supposed to build four hydro-electric power plants but managed to complete only two, both of which are now idle due to various defects, the GM bared.
He also clarified that the proposed CSP will include a provision for a 3.6-mW baseload plant that would absorb line voltage fluctuations that cause cascading genset failures.
The private power supplier now operates small, high-speed diesel gensets that have low protection and are prone to “tripping” shutdowns when transient faults occur in the grid.