ERC orders Socoteco II, Conal to conduct consultations

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 December) — The Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday ordered the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) and Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) to conduct more public consultations as it begins hearing the application for approval of the said companies for their power supply agreement.

In a jampacked conference room of Socoteco II, applicants and opposition traded arguments which prompted ERC hearing officer Gloria Yap-Taruc to repeatedly issue reminders to limit their arguments on the provisions of the power supply agreement.

Dominador Lagare, counsel for Freedom from Debt Coalition, earlier submitted formal opposition to the application citing a city council resolution asking the commission to hold in abeyance the public hearing.

Taruc however told Lagare that the city government is “not barred from proceeding” with its technical working group study but that the hearing over the application of Socoteco II and SEC will still continue.

The ERC gave Socoteco II and SEC until January 15 to hold public consultations in the franchise areas of the local distribution firm.

The franchise areas of Socoteco II include General Santos, the whole of Sarangani and the towns of Polomolok and Tupi.

City legal officer Peter Armand Henares also entered his appearance for the city government of General Santos as oppositor and claimed that the president of Socoteco II did not have the authority from the board of directors to enter into a supply contract with SEC.

But lawyers from Socoteco II said its president was duly authorized by its board of directors to negotiate with SEC and sign the power supply agreement.

General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio also attended the hearing and asked pointed questions to both Socoteco II and SEC who were represented by engineer Rodolfo Ocat and Joseph Nocos, respectively.

Sources said the city mayor earlier wrote ERC chair Zenaida Cruz-Ducut asking the latter to postpone the hearing,

More than 80 percent of Socoteco’s energy supply is dedicated to industrial, commercial and residential users of General Santos City.

Ocat said during his expository presentation that the Socoteco II will likely face supply shortfall in 2014 following the decision of the National Power Corporation to cut power supply by 30 per cent or roughly 30 megawatts.

Socoteco II peak load requirement is pegged at 102 megawatts.

The utility firm said that to cover up for the reduced supply from Napocor, it entered into an 18-megawatt supply contract with Therma Marine Inc. at a higher price.  Socoteco II sources said it resorted into rotating power curtailment in areas outside General Santos as the supply from Therma Marine and Napocor still falls short by 12 megawatts during peak hours.

Polomolok mayor Ed Lumayag and Sarangani Vice Gov. Steve Chiongbian-Solon also participated in the hearing. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)