Batangas Forum clamors for BATELEC II, Meralco joint venture

THE Batangas Forum for Good Governance and Development Association, Inc. (Batangas Forum), a non-government organization of the province of Batangas with members composed of retired national, provincial and local government officials as well as retired and active businessmen from the province, recently engaged with Meralco to discuss how to further improve the power distribution in the province with one of the options being a joint venture of the power company with Batangas II Electric Cooperative (BATELEC II), and its possible impact on Batangueños.

The discussion was graced by Batangas Forum President Mayor Gigi L. Platon, Batangas Forum Chairman and former Tanauan Mayor Francisco E. Lirio, Congressman Nicanor “Nikkie” Briones of AGAP (Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, Inc.) Partylist and Meralco Senior Vice President and Chief External and
Government Affairs Officer Atty. Arnel Casanova.

The need for improvements in power distribution in Batangas could pave the way for a proposed joint venture between BATELEC II and Meralco, which Cong. Briones believes serves as a good opportunity for Batangas and for the people.

“If you look at the BATELEC II customer receipt, 31 centavos per kilowatt hour is charged to customers as members’ capital contribution or investment fund for capital expenditure. Batelec II alone collected P144 million a year which translates to P1.4 billion for 10 years. But given this amount, the service and infrastructure of BATELEC II did not improve,” Cong. Briones explained.

Batangas Forum Chairman Lirio added that there is a need to spend on infrastructure such as substations, posts and transmission lines and added that the electricity situation in Batangas certainly needs improvement.

At the forum, resort owners also lamented the high electricity rates in Batangas and that the competitiveness of resorts and other businesses is substantially reduced. “Ang hirap mag-negosyo dito sa Batangas. Napakamahal ng gastos natin sa kuryente” Nelson Terrible, President and CEO of Club Balai Isabel, said.

The resort owners are also collectively dealing with frequent power outages especially during the peak summer season disrupting operational and business efficiency.

“Because of power interruptions, appliances in our resorts need to be changed often. For example, the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit here in Batangas is three to five years versus 15 years in Manila,” Terrible explained further.

As the invited speaker at the monthly Batangas Forum, Meralco’s Atty. Casanova recognized Batangas as one of the country’s fastest-growing provinces and is seen as an active economic driver of CALABARZON along with Laguna and Cavite, hence the need for stable and efficient electricity service. He echoed Meralco Chairman and CEO Manny Pangilinan’s strategic thrust to help and partner with the electric cooperatives outside the Meralco franchise to spur economic growth in the countryside.

Casanova also highlighted that businesses and investments go where Meralco goes. He said that according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the GRDP per capita of Filipinos within the Meralco franchise is around Php 500,000 per annum while, for areas outside Meralco franchise, the GRDP per capita is around Php 147,000. The Philippine national GDP is around Php197,000. Thus, the economic data shows that the GRDP per capita within Meralco service areas is three times higher than in non-Meralco areas because businesses require a reliable and affordable power supply. Meralco wants to partner with electric cooperatives to bring its vast resources and technological prowess and efficiency.

“Ang usaping kuryente ay malaking issue ng economic inequality. Kailangan ng reliable at affordable power upang umunlad ang negosyo at ekonomiya hindi lamang sa kalunsuran kundi para rin sa mga probinsya,”” Casanova said, adding Meralco’s willingness to help electric cooperatives improve their operations.

He cited Meralco’s capital-intensive projects to ensure that necessary infrastructure, equipment, and even alternate substations are in place to meet the demand of its customers.

“As a firm that regulators are constantly reviewing, Meralco invests more than three times the average electric cooperative, assuring service quality. We truly care about customer satisfaction,” Atty. Casanova said.

Meralco has reached out to BATELEC II to formally state its proposal to explore a joint venture. BATELEC II has discussed the proposal with its Board and is currently seeking approval from NEA (National Electrification Administration) Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda to proceed with the discussions about the proposed joint venture.

Casanova is hoping to get approval from NEA soon. He added that Meralco is ready to partner with other power distributors in Batangas, explaining that large investments are needed to support economic growth and customer requirements, but the structural limitations prevent the electric cooperatives from meeting all capital and operational expenditure requirements.

As an added benefit, a joint venture with Meralco could give cooperatives the opportunity to settle their financial obligations.

“This would also mean improved services to consumers through adequate investment in infrastructure development, ensuring reliable and affordable electricity. We can also attract and retain investors in non-Meralco areas in Batangas to contribute to local employment and economic growth. This joint venture will allow electric cooperatives to continue to participate in and benefit from the growth in the area,” Casanova vowed.

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