Power curtailment in Maguindanao deferred on BARMM gov’t intercession in Ramadan spirit

By Ali G, Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – The Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco) has deferred the power curtailment it imposed in its franchise area following intercession by the Bangsamoro autonomous government for the sake of unhampered observance of Islamic fasting in Ramadan.

Due to accumulated consumers’ unpaid bills involving several millions of pesos, the Magelco started imposing power curtailment last March 24, about 10 days before Muslims worldwide began their fasting in Ramadan as one of the five pillars of Islam.

Magelco, which serves most of the 36 municipalities in Maguindanao, imposed the drastic sanction due reportedly to decreased power supply prompted by its accumulated debts to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), the government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) managing outstanding obligations of electric cooperatives nationwide.

Maguindanao, a component province of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), has a total population of 1,667,258 comprising mostly ethnic Muslims belonging to the dominant Maguindanaon tribe. 

Apprehensive of the plight of villagers’ fasting sans electricity, BARMM officials interceded and initiated a series of discussions with counterparts from Magelco and PSALM on March 25, sources said.

“As part of our mandate in protecting our (constituents), we hold this meeting to discuss the issue and find solutions as ways forward,” BARMM Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Sukarno Abas said in one conference, the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) said. 

The curtailment was meant by Magelco to provide daily four-hour rotational power in its service area. It means that resident consumers would have to endure 20-hour power outages per day, a statement furnished by BARMM Local Government Minister and Spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo said.

“BARMM, through the MENRE-Energy Management and Development Services (EMDS), formally requested PSALM to postpone the curtailment of power supply to MAGELCO, especially during the month of Ramadan,” Sinarimbo’s statement said.

PSALM administers the power generation from Agus 1 and Agus 2 facilities in Lanao del Sur, and is the sole energy provider of MAGELCO. It has the authority to decide the energy allocation provided to MAGELCO corresponding to its capacity to pay, the statement added.

The BARMM leadership “expresses its gratitude to PSALM for (its) favorable consideration” of the deferment request “during the observance of the holy month of Ramadan,” it added.

The statement was silent about what will be the next scenario after the Ramadan fasting, saying only that “further discussions” will push through as the BARMM leadership has assured to pursue “stringent efforts to find the ultimate solution to this perennial problem.”

Former Rajah Buayan Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan, now undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture, has suggested in a social media post for a declaration of bankruptcy in Magelco and for the BARMM government to come into rescue.

Magelco had imposed a “black Monday” or massive power outage on Dec. 9, 2019 because “only 16,000 of 47,000 member-consumers or 34% are regularly paying their monthly electric bills,” according to an advisory that year from then general manager Ashary Maongco.

The delinquency has severely affected Magelco’s P1-billion credit standing with the PSALM Corp., the advisory stated.

There were circulating rumors that Magelco’s debt has now exceeded P2-billion. (AGM)

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