Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands

Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands
View of Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands-Click on photo to link to Chateau Du Mer


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Marinduque Power Crisis-Part 6

Here's the continuation of E. Obligacion investigative report on the Marinduque Power Crisis. This report is an example of non-transparency and inefficiency of Marelco and Napocor. I can not wait for the end of this messy saga of "economic sabotage and conspiracy".

Thursday, November 5, 2009

As recorded by Marelco, power outages in 2008 for which the coop as distributor was responsible was 21.049 hours, and 91.48 hours for outages that emanated from Napocor plants.

For the first half of 2009, Marelco accepted responsibility for 42.94 hours of outages, and 57 hours for Napocor, the latter somehow contesting the figures during a confrontation before the provincial board at the capitol.

One flyer distributed by angry residents from Gasan during such a meeting stated: “Marahil sa ngayon ay nauubusan na sila ng mapaniniwalaang “paliwanag o kabulaanan”. (“Maybe by this time they (Marelco) have ran out of credible ‘explanations or lies.”)

The local churches, expressing dismay over the situation, would also eventually be heard conveying in homilies a quote from Proverbs: 31:9 “Ipahayag mo nang malinaw ang katotohanan at ang katuwiran, at igawad ang katarungan sa api at mahirap”. (Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. (AKJV)

We’ve heard previously of someone in the provincial board accusing the concerned players of “conspiracy” and “economic sabotage”.

Could such conspiracy really be present here? The situation would show that persons, schools, business, churches, hospitals, homes and offices incurred damages in various forms brought about by the outages, and they continue to suffer. Agreements between or among conspirators defraud another of rights and lead to the attainment of evil or illegal objectives and inflict such damages.

Moro-moro (comedia), on the other hand, is a term used in the Philippines to describe farcical acts committed by co-conspirators. Moro-moro on most occasions would need a tacitly mapped out script by a bigger, powerful force or entity.

By listening and studying the Marinduque situation one just might, indeed, distinguish any of these ‘vicious and pernicious’ elements as being evident.


By August 2008, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan with Vice-Governor Tomas Pizarro presiding was compelled to call for a ‘clarificatory conference’ in reaction to the public clamor for the provincial council to “intervene in this present critical situation of power supply... and be able to understand the root and causes of this perennial power outages.”

Invited were representatives of 3i Powergen, Marelco, Napocor. There, as would be admitted by the Marelco management itself, we’d be told that the energy consumers (36,000 subscribers), had no apparent knowledge of the involvement of an independent power producer having taken over responsibility to supply electricity in mainland Marinduque: “Sa simula ay walang ginawang konsultasyon at ang usapin ay sa loob lamang ng Marelco sapagkat maaring mahirapan ito sa pagpapaliwanag sa mga ordinaryong consumers”,(Bueno)

Details of the PSA contract, on the other hand, would remain exclusive only to the contracting parties, 3i Powergen and Marelco, including those of subsequent supplemental agreements involving said entities and Napocor. With true information only known to them, the probable extent of the impending power crisis could not have escaped reckoning by the three and, one might add, also by any other parties who may have been involved in said agreements.

By this time IFC had apparently ended its involvement with our IPP, yet we’d learn of said IPP desperately trying to put on a brave face after engaging in minimal ground-breaking activities at their plant, best described by a board member as “just for show”; we’d hear the IPP blaming the global financial crisis, yet convincing some investors somehow to come into the picture; then shortly we’d hear no more from such investors who’d turn away for reasons only known to them; and finally we’d find the IPP representative almost breaking down, pleading before the provincial board for support and understanding.

On the other hand, the electric cooperative would set into motion a series of purported explanations on the cause of power failures. These would range from the seemingly serious to the hopelessly ridiculous. Explanation offered before official bodies such as the provincial board would starkly differ from those intended for public consumption.


Those for public consumption are not directly related to the persistent outages, but word of mouth as an effective tool to further cause anxiety would be a big break for politically-motivated rumormongers who had their field day over an extended period, reinforced by text brigades.

Under such a situation, in island Marinduque, people who had no inkling of what was going on would tend to believe anything they’d hear from the electric cooperative or purported reliable sources on what was causing the brownouts.

Note the money-focused power outage explanations for public consumption in their raw form:

- Marelco had problems paying debts in the millions that it owed Napocor;

- A large number of consumers could not settle their electricity bills causing Marelco’s failure to settle its NPC bills;

- Collectors would convey to consumers that foremost of those who do not settle bills is a certain provincial official and this has contributed to the problem;

- Shortage of supply for diesel fuel has occurred;

- Marelco has incurred losses due to the cost of rehabilitation and repair of electrical lines and posts;

- An independent power producer has already taken partial responsibility in generating power;

- The brownouts were caused by falling coco fronds, trees hitting and alligators intruding into power lines, etc.

All these explanations would evolve into multiple versions. One would have expected Marelco’s weekly local radio program to come in useful as a medium to inform the public on these issues, yet we find the said program decidedly ineffective focusing on consumer rights related to disconnection and Marelco’s right to disconnect members who are unable to pay: “Iyon po ang focus ng radio - ang karapatan ng consumer at karapatan din ng Marelco para sa pagputol sa ating mga hindi nakakabayad na member consumer” (Marelco’s Espino, July 6, 2009).

For official consumption conveyed during official conferences with the provincial board, Marelco would, however, confirm:

- Payment of outstanding bills to Napocor is not the cause of the power outages;

- Power outages are not caused by IPP’s failure to generate power. Through charts Marelco would prove that these were caused by line faults due to coco palm, power supply trip offs, scheduled maintenance, voltage under-frequencies or over-fluctuations to unknown reasons, with NPC as power source mainly responsible, and Marelco admitting responsibility for some of them;

- Napocor gave Marelco very short notices (“ura-urada”) whenever the former would advise the coop of any impending power curtailment, citing as an example one received on a Holy Thursday, the start of the Holy Week holiday, for a scheduled power curtailment the following Monday); Marelco would cite its perception that such NPC actions were apparently intended to create a bad image for the electric cooperative; (July 6, 2009)

Provincial board member Lety Monte would observe that in these meetings Marelco and Napocor do not look straight into each others eyes like they were hiding something, she had to implore them to be more transparent: “Obserbasyon ni Bokal Monte na ang mga kinatawan ng bawat sektor ay hindi nagtitinginan sa isa’t isa na animo’y may tinatago pa ring problema kaya hiniling niya na maging transparent ang mga ito..” (Aug. 11, 2008).


Also during the August 2008 conference, 3i Powergen’s Atty. Lagundi would rue the wildfire speculations and engage in a futile attempt to create a picture of company efficiency and confidence. Futile as statements are belied.

3i: Because the company recognizes its social responsibility it has already entered into a a MOA with Napocor on May 30, 2008 as a “counter-measure”, a lease agreement involving “a number or all of existing land-based gensets” of Napocor.

Marelco: Marelco is not aware of any such lease agreement document with Napocor.

3i: 3i is currently reimbursing NPC the cost of generating power.

Napocor: No such reimbursement occurs since Napocor bills are paid directly by Marelco.

3i: 3i Powergen has rented 2 units of 1.5 MW Cummings gensets since July 28, 2008and a 5MW gen-set is scheduled to arrive as replacement for the power barge; 3i will assume full responsibility in reimbursing Napocor.

Napocor: (to the provincial board): “...plese help us justify on how we can restore our 2009 budget requirement for Marinduque in order for us to provide continuous power supply in the island.”

3i: “70% of the civil works at the Balogo plant site is already completed”.

Marelco: “They started digging in October 2006, up to now I am not aware of anything they have finished”.

3i: “We are thankful to Marelco for keeping communications with our company always open”

Marelco: Updates should be conveyed by 3i in black and white to avoid such speculations.


Napocor would appear to use the occasion to play Messiah:

Napocor’s Llorente: Since 1995, the commissioning of the power barge, wala pang nagawang maintenance dito so its now overdue for dry-docking. Dry-docking in 2005 & 2007 were cancelled due to the power requirement of Marinduque.

“Once the rented 5MW will be commissioned by August 15 (2008), we will shut down the barge and start dry-docking activities. Last week the contractor committed that tomorrow they will deliver the required transformer, by Thursday the gen-sets will arrive here in Marinduque.

“The 6 MW requirement is good for 4 hours during peak load, as of now we have the capacity of 7.05 MW including rental at nakatakda ang commissioning ng 5MW rented genset sa August 15. We can assure that power barge will stay for as long as necessary.”

That would, of course, be more than enough to assuage the feeling of uncertainty gripping everyone around. Napocor would then follow up with a catch:

Llorente: “Again, for this august body, please help us justify on how we can restore our 2009 budget requirement for Marinduque in order for us to provide continuous power supply in the island.”

Did the Marinduque Provincial Government then respond positively to the Napocor representative’s request?

On the same day, in view of the representations made by the engineers of Napocor who were based in Marinduque and because of the power outages experienced in the province the provincial board adopted a “resolution requesting the National Power Corporation (Napocor) to restore the budget of the NPC-Marinduque to ensure continuity of power supply in the province.”


Yet the problem has persisted. Eleven months later we’d find the provincial board calling for a similar conference where an exasperated board member, Alvarez, would state thus: “...napakiusapan natin ang NAPOCOR noon na ibalik ang pondo nila .... sa pakiusap ng mga nanunungkulan sa pamahalaan ng lalawigan at napahinuhod po natin ang NAPOCOR na ibalik ang pondo nila upang makapagbigay ng mga pagkukulang.” (“...we were able to request Napocor to restore the budget...through representations from the provincial government and Napocor was convinced of the need to restore the budget to address the deficiencies.”)

”...The problem lies on the weakness of the institutions involved in ensuring the stability of power source in the province of Marinduque... sapagkat napakatagal na nitong problema na ito, napakatagal na at paulit-ulit at noong nakaraang taon kung matatandaan ninyo nagharap-harap na rin tayo in the same hall in the very same month because of the very same problem..” (..because this problem has taken so long, so long and repeatedly and last year if you will recall we’ve also met in the same hall in the very same month because of the very same problem).

Heard loud in the same hall:

“Parang chubibo!” (like a ferris-wheel)
“Paikot-ikot!” (going around in circles)
“Deretsahan na!” (go direct to the point)

Nothing’s changed.

(to be continued)

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