Albay town plunges into blackout from unpaid power bills worth P32M

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Rapu-Rapu in Albay province plunged into a blackout after the National Power Corporation (NPC) shut down power in the town on Saturday afternoon as hundreds of consumers failed to settle the initial P15-million of the P32-million unpaid power bills to Albay Power Energy Corp. (APEC).

Lesley Capus, APEC Institutional Relations and Customer Support Department head, said in an interview on Saturday that 658 of the 1,700 delinquent customers were able to raise PHP3 million during the four-day pitch-in collection period.

However, the amount was only 2 percent of the amount consumers owe APEC to sustain the power of the town.

As requested, the NPC cut off the power, first on Batan Island at noon. At 12:18 p.m., the town followed.

“We regret to inform the public that we will proceed with our request to the National Power Corporation to discontinue supplying power to our delinquent customers,” the APEC notice read.

Capus said APEC has already provided ample consideration and opportunity for customers to fully settle their obligation and to avert the power shutdown.

“We need to proceed as requested to NPC to disconnect the power supply in Rapu-Rapu. We can no longer sustain paying P2M per month for the electricity supply already consumed by our customers,” he said.

APEC, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation Global Power Holdings, on Monday requested NPC-Bicol to cut off power services in the island town for its failure to pay its outstanding debts despite repeated reminders.

APEC is paying P2 million monthly to NPC for providing diesel-fed power to Rapu-Rapu.

Meanwhile, Virgilio Perdigon, a power consumer advocate, posted on social media post that APEC’s move to shut down power in Rapu-Rapu may have violated the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers, a provision under Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the regulatory powers of the National Electrification Administration.

“Let us see if it has the balls to violate the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers and insist on its purported commercial prerogative which has no legal footing whatsoever,” he posted.

“They are entitled to their opinions and the burden of proof to prove if there are indeed violations committed by APEC is in their hands,” Capus countered.

APEC has 205,000 power subscribers spread over the 15 towns and three cities of Albay.

The firm is also saddled with various operational and technical problems such as unpaid bills from 53,000 consumers, system losses caused by rampant power pilferages, and antiquated transmission lines and stations.

He said the firm is losing some P142 million a month due to system losses and non-payment of bills.

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