GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 Nov) – On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, electricity supply for the entire province of Maguindanao is in danger of being cut off because of the P800-million debt incurred by its electric utility cooperative.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said because the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (MAGELCO) cannot pay its debts, the government plans to take over the power cooperative similar to what it did to another cash-strapped utility, the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (LASURECO).
“We want to support MAGELCO so it can implement an effective collection system. We want to know if they need military muscle like LASURECO,” Petilla said.
The energy secretary said the government took control of LASURECO this year after its debts ballooned to P8 billion.
He said the government fielded soldiers and tanks to help LASURECO collect the electricity bills from Lanao del Sur consumers.
“We can do a similar operation here in the case of Maguindanao cooperative,” Petilla said.
He said MAGELCO failed to pay its bills for several years, resulting to the accumulation of interest on the unpaid principal.
He blamed the Ampatuan family of the financial mess of MAGELCO.
“First, the Ampatuan family did not pay their bills. When the collectors try to collect from the other consumers, these people run to the Ampatuans. The bills became unpaid,” Petilla said.
He said suppliers have presently cut off electricity to Maguindanao from 10 megawatts to only 2 megawatts because of the huge debt.