Oppositors no show in ERC pre-trial hearing on Socoteco-SEC power sale bid

PASIG CITY (MindaNews/22 March) — Opposition groups and intervenors in the power sales application between the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) and Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) failed to appear in the March 22 pre-trial hearing set by the Energy Regulatory Commission here, prompting the energy body to reset the hearing to March 29.

Only the lawyers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which filed a separate intervention, and the representatives of the power sales applicants were present during the hearing.

Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc and Ma. Teresa Castañeda instead requested Socoteco II general manager Rodolfo Ocat to furnish all intervenors copies of the order on the new dates of the hearing.

The commissioners said they decided not proceed with the pre-trial hearing to avoid more “contentious issues” arising from the failure of the opposition to appear in the hearing.

Among those who are opposing the 70-megawatt power sales agreement between Socoteco II and Sarangani Energy are the city government of General Santos, Freedom from Debt Coalition, private intervenor Dominador Lagare and residents of Polomolok, South Cotabato.

The Socoteco II franchise covers General Santos City, Sarangani and the towns of Polomolok and Tupi of South Cotabato.

The ERC earlier dismissed the petition of Eduardo Alegre et al, all residents of Polomolok, to declare the power sales agreement (PSA) between Socoteco II and SEC null and void.

In dismissing the petition of Alegre et al, the ERC said the former’s allegations were “bereft of merit and their allegation that the award of the PSA to CHC is highly irregular, immoral, unlawful, an abuse of authority and a grave misconduct…is untenable.”

Alegre, as well as other oppositors, claimed the assignment of the contract from Conal Holdings Corporation (CHC) to SEC was irregular considering that the latter was a newly formed corporation with an authorized capitalization of only P5,000,000.

The power sales contract between Socoteco II and SEC covers 25 years.

Socoteco II has a baseload capacity of at least 70 megawatts and a peaking load of up to 105 megawatts.

CHC was the original party to the PSA with Socoteco II.

Conal Holdings, however, assigned its rights and obligation to SEC, the implementing arm of its 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant project in Maasim, Sarangani, and submitted the appropriate amendments to the original contract to the ERC.

CHC is the holdings company of the power business of the Alcantara and Sons Development Corporation.  CHC also owns and operates the Western Mindanao Power Corporation and the Southern Philippines Power Corporation, both separately running 55-megawatt diesel-fired power plants.

Socoteco II earlier appealed for support to the PSA it entered into with CHC/SEC.

Ocat said unless the cooperative is able to secure long term power supply contract, the city could suffer from two to six-hour brownouts beginning next year. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)