DONE DEAL, ALMOST…: Ceneco-Primelectric JVA process starts as plebiscite ends

Atty. Arnel Lapore, Ceneco acting general manager

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) acting general manager Atty. Arnel Lapore said that the plebiscite on the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with Primelectric Holdings Inc. was ordered concluded by the National Electrification Administration (MEA) after the affirmative threshold was achieved.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Lapore said the Ceneco board headed by Jojit Yap declared the termination of the plebiscite in a meeting earlier that day.

He added that the result of the plebiscite was then submitted to NEA for its concurrence.

He said that NEA has ordered the cancellation of the remaining schedule of the plebiscite supposedly on September 2-3, 2023.

In its directive, NEA stated that Ceneco is authorized to declare the termination of the plebiscite.

“It would be unnecessary to continue with the remaining two days of the plebiscite since the threshold number of the affirmative votes has been achieved,” according to the directive signed by NEA administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda.

To continue with the plebiscite on September 2-3, 2023 would only result in unnecessary costs and burdens to Ceneco as well as interfering with the resumption of public school classes that started on August 29, 2023.

He said the NEA will issue its concurrence on the result of the plebiscite soonest.

The plebiscite result showed that 98,591 member-consumers voted yes for the JVA, while 6,899 voted no, 48 ballots were considered spoiled, and only 2 abstentions, Lapore said.

The 98,591 yes votes constituted 55.31 percent of the total number of eligible voters.

Lapore said with the JVA approved, the joint venture will start soon and will take about eight months for everything to be in place as the agreement provided.

He added that part of the process will be the application for a franchise for 25 years for the Negros Electric Power Corporation, which is the Ceneco-Primelectric merger company.

Lapore stressed that as far as the JVA is concerned, at least 70 percent of the workforce of Ceneco may be rehired as others may opt to retire.

“It is their option, but the employment package is better,” he added.

He further said that with the JVA approved, Ceneco will now focus on reducing the systems loss or power lost to technical causes and pilferage.

Lapore also emphasized that “Ceneco will continue its operations, Primelectric will just help if requested.”

Primelectric is aiming to acquire Ceneco’s distribution assets, which is estimated at P2.4 billion, on a 70-30 arrangement – 70 percent will be in cash and 30 percent in shares in the new distribution company, Negros Electric and Power Corp., which will be put up and acquire a Congressional franchise.

The firm committed more or less P2 billion for the asset cash purchase and around P2.2 billion in working capital, with total investment estimated at P3.7 billion to P4 billion.

The plebiscite was rolled out after Ceneco and Primelectric signed the JVA on June 3, 2023.

Lapore justified the JVA as a way to solve Ceneco’s financial woes which include P20 million monthly losses and an P800-million debt.

Most of the losses are attributed to systems loss or electricity lost to technical factors and pilferage or theft.

Primelectric is the parent company of MORE Power, which took over as the sole power distributor in Iloilo City four years ago.