ZAMBOANGA City’s power consumers have begun to complain against the worsening power outages which, strangely enough, are not due to inadequate power supply but to an impasse in a payment dispute between the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (Zamcelco) and the power generator Western Mindanao Power Co. (WMPC).
Zamboanga’s problem comes at a time when most of Mindanao is moving ahead, benefitting from economic policies and programs of the Duterte administration. Local economic officials are bullish that the entire region is fast moving forward, with higher infrastructure spending under “Build, Build, Build.” Hopes and expectations are high for better road networks, greater economic activity, more jobs, and lower prices of goods.
But in Zamboanga City itself, the residents and business enterprises have begun to complain of longer and more frequent power outages. It is all because the electric cooperative and the power producer are at odds on the payment of a debt estimated at P350 million as of January 18, 2019.
The power generating firm, WMPC, said it has been forced to cut down its operations since February 4 as it had run out of fuel, due to alleged nonpayment by the cooperative of its debt. The latter, now managed by Crown Investment Holdings, Inc., in turn, alleged over-billing by the power firm. It questioned a payment arrangement which had been working in the last three years.
It may take years before the appropriate government agency or court can decide on the legal basis for the action of withholding payment to WMPC. In the meantime, the people of Zamboanga City suffer. I will become worse next month when the city’s sardine canneries resume their operations after their regular three-month break. The cooperative is reported considering palliative measure like bringing in emergency generator sets, but this will cost Zamboangueños more because of the high cost of diesel fuel.
Many power shortages in the past in various parts of the country arose from inadequate supply. This is not the problem in Zamboanga City. It appears to be more the result of disagreement over payment for a long outstanding debt. For the sake of the people of Zamboanga City and in the light of the overall development now pushing Mindanao forward, we hope the disagreement will be quickly settled and the problem solved.