By this article, I wish to make it known to every Catandunganon the urgent need to unite for a cause that will have long-lasting benefits to our island province in terms of power generation and the continuing operational stability of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc.
This involves the operation of the Balongbong Mini Hydro Power Plant (BMHPP) in Bato, Catanduanes. The BMHPP was constructed in 1982 and was commissioned, or became operational, in 1983.
The hydro-plant is capable of providing 1800kW of renewable energy from two mini-hydro sets of 900kW capacity each.
At this point, it is also important to note that the lots comprising the land on which BMHPP was built were all donated to FICELCO in 1982 by various landowners, only for the specific purpose of the construction of the hydro power plant.
Five months after its operation (July-November 1983), Typhoon Warling caused extensive damage to the power plant and rendered it totally inoperative.
By November of 1984, the BMHPP was completely rehabilitated and resumed operation under FICELCO.
In 1988, the National Power Corporation (NPC), acting upon a presidential directive, took over the ownership and operations of the generating plants, including the BMHPP, under a specific condition that consumers of Catanduanes shall be charged for power generation through the mini-hydro power plant an amount which shall not exceed P2.50 per kilowatt hour.
This was announced by then President Corazon C. Aquino on May 1, 1988. This condition was further stated in the Memorandum of Agreement on the transfer of ownership signed between FICELCO, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and NPC on August 1988.
And so, from 1988, the people of Catanduanes enjoyed a rate of P2.50/kWh for their electricity consumption from the BMHPP.
However, in 1990, NPC began to increase the selling rate to FICELCO, breaching the P2.50/kWh ceiling rate. The power rate in Catanduanes saw a continuous increase since then, even as NPC continued to provide its mandated subsidies.
To make the long story short, FICELCO, who was supposedly the owner of the BMHPP, ended up purchasing renewable energy from NPC. In almost three decades since the plant was taken over by NPC, FICELCO has bought a total of Php558,042,777.06.
These historical circumstances have succeeded FICELCO managers and board of directors since 1996. Many appeals and representations have been made and pursued, even as far as the Malacañang, in an attempt to reclaim ownership of BMHPP and operate it accordingly, for the benefit of the people of Catanduanes.
But unfortunately, all efforts have been unfruitful until now. There are legal issues and other complications that need to be threshed out.
But I believe all these are merely superficial in nature, and I know the way to a just and fair conclusion to this affair is for those in power to have a sense of patriotism and fairness, especially for Catandunganons who have suffered from this arrangement for far too long and continue to suffer from catastrophic typhoons that tremendously affect the sustainability of FICELCO as the “bringer of light” in the island.
Today, FICELCO re-treads the path towards reclaiming BMHPP.
I am telling this story to make it known to every Catandungeño and hopefully for everyone to join us in this crusade by supporting the move to transfer the operations of the BMHPP to its original and rightful owner – First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc.
We need your support in this fight for justice and fairness.