Mayor welcomes Senate approval of NEPC franchise

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez welcomed the Senate’s approval of the bill granting the Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) its legislative franchise and expressed hope that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will sign it into law soon.

“The sooner, the better,” Benitez told reporters.

He said once the bill is signed into law, NEPC can begin investing in the rehabilitation of old and dilapidated equipment and facilities, which are major causes of frequent power outages and high electricity rates.

NEPC is set to invest approximately PHP 2.1 billion to improve the system, reduce system loss, and enhance reliability.

Meanwhile, Benitez plans to write to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to question why the red alert, which should have triggered a secondary price cap, was only issued on May 21, 2024, instead of earlier.

He noted that the May billing of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) increased from PHP 12 to PHP 15 per kWh.

An earlier red alert could have reduced the power rate by at least PHP 2, he said.

Benitez also raised concerns about the provisional authority that Ceneco is seeking to utilize the power supply contracted with the Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

Ceneco contracted 20 MW from EDC on March 15, 2024, at PHP 5.56 per kWh.

The provisional authority should have been issued within 60 days, but ERC has yet to issue it.

“We are questioning why they have not issued the provisional authority until now,” Benitez said.

Transformation Revolutionary

Meanwhile, Power Watch Negros expects the transformation of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) into the Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) to be revolutionary.

Power Watch Negros Secretary-General Wennie Sancho said, “We foresee that it would involve a major redesign of this Distribution Utility (DU), integrating the process and culture of Negros Power as a company, supported by a fully integrated information system.”

Sancho explained that the proposed rehabilitation of Ceneco’s infrastructure is not limited to the repair and replacement of aging equipment like transformers and distribution lines but aims to restore the DU to successful operation and solvency.

Consumers expect efficient services, good management, and financial stability under NEPC, he added. Sancho stressed the need for a review of existing policies and standards, developing new ones conducive to the new working environment, and eliminating those that caused past failures.

Sancho highlighted that managing the people who must change is crucial in the transformation from Ceneco to NEPC. “Experience has shown that workers will attempt to delay the change or revert to the status quo. We hope they will gradually accept it,” he said.

He also foresaw a paradigm shift in values among employees, emphasizing the importance of corporate values amid the transformation. Although it is still early, Sancho said improvements in performance indicators will become apparent during the implementation of NEPC’s Five-Year Development Plan.

Sancho acknowledged the challenges accompanying major transformation efforts but noted positive changes in Ceneco’s rehabilitation spearheaded by NEPC.

“The emergence of NEPC as a reliable partner of Ceneco is a morale booster that shall strengthen this transformation, marking a milestone and a turning point for the success of the energy sector,” Sancho added.

NEPC was formed from a Joint Venture Agreement between Ceneco and Primelectric. The bill granting its legislative franchise has been approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and is awaiting the President’s signature. If not signed within 30 days, it will automatically become law.

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