For some time now, many in the public expressed skepticism of Congressman Hector Sanchez’s submarine power cable proposal early in his term to link the Catanduanes island grid to the mainland’s Luzon grid.
Critics, especially those who had grown weary of his extended absence from the island during the community quarantine days in 2020 until mid-2021, naturally considered the project a product of the electrical engineer’s wishful thinking.
The Duterte administration, they thought, would not consider funding such a capital-intensive project in the last years of its stay in Malacanang.
Even the visit of then National Transmission Corporation (Transco) president Melvin Matibag and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi for the MOA signing between Transco and FICELCO on the project was thought of as a political stunt by some local officials as well as key officials of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO).
At the time, Cusi, who heads the PDP-Laban’s Duterte wing, wanted warm bodies from local government units to beef up the party’s membership.
According to an insider at the time, the energy secretary asked the mayors present, as well as Gov. Joseph Cua and Cong. Sanchez, to join the party presumably in exchange for the administration’s backing of the submarine cable project.
Apparently, nothing came out of the discussion, as those present stayed with their erstwhile political alliances.
Shortly after the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy, one aspirant for Sanchez’s seat said the congressman’s pet project would never be implemented during his term for lack of funds.
It now appears that he may have spoken too soon, with the declaration of Transco consultant and foremost power industry expert Prof. Rowaldo del Mundo that Catanduanes is now the focus of the corporation’s bid to implement a master plan that would link the island, as well as Palawan and Mindoro, to the national power grid.
He says that first among the two requirements of the project is that the Universal Charge-Missionary Electrification (UCME), paid by all consumers nationwide for the subsidy enjoyed by islanders, would be removed in the process.
The present value of the subsidy, which allows Catandunganons to enjoy a generation rate of about P7-8 per kilowatt-hour instead of the actual P14/kWh, is about P7.1-B.
Once the P4-billion project is completed, it will do away with the UC-ME as the generation rate would fall to about P4 to P4.50/kWh, the UP professor states.
Plus the 81-centavo/kWh transmission fee to the paid to Transco, FICELCO would be charging only about P5/kWh as generation charge.
This, he said, is the only way to prepare for Transco’s vision of “One Region, One Performance, One Rate” for Bicol, with Masbate to be connected later to the grid through Ticao island to Bulan, Sorsogon.
The interconnection of the Catanduanes grid to the Luzon grid would not only bring lower power rates but would also ensure the stability of power supply by eliminating the frequent outages brought by the small gensets operating on the island.
Transco’s vision and determination to push through with the grid interconnection through submarine power cable means Cong. Sanchez will have to win in the May 9, 2022 elections.
With the future of the proposed shipyard and the Catanduanes State University’s agro-industrial economic zone hanging in the balance, his partners in the Bagong Timpla slate may have to carry him across the finish line if needed.
As none of the other aspirants for the House seat appears to have the same vision, the electorate should to be convinced that a second term would be all that Hector Sanchez needs to make his grid interconnection project, and cheaper power, a reality.