MANILA, Aug. 10 -- National Electrification Administration (NEA) administrator, Edgardo Masongsong, has directed the office’s technical services and engineering department to look into the reliability performance of all the 121 electric cooperatives (ECs) under its charge, including the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco).

In a news release issued Thursday, NEA deputy administrator, Artis Nikki Tortola, said the investigation aims to determine if all the ECs meet the reliability standards set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

"We are evaluating the 2016 reliability of the electric cooperatives, including the first semester from January 2017 to June 2017. We are looking into the reliability compliance of the electric cooperatives based on the standards set by the ERC," explained Tortola.

To be given special attention in the probe are Paleco, Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative Inc. (Omeco), Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ormeco), and Aklan Electric Cooperative Inc. Boracay area (Akelco), all of which have complaints concerning reliability, especially regarding the duration and frequency of power interruptions.

"There is no exemption. If they fail, we will determine the reasons behind this and take appropriate actions," he said.

Tortola met with Paleco general manager, Ric Zambales, and Technical Services Engr. Ricardo Adajao earlier this week to discuss the cause of the recurrent power interruptions being experienced by residents of Palawan since last January.

During the discussion, Paleco claimed that majority of the outages were caused by transmission line faults and transmission maintenance.

"One notable reason is the issue on vegetation, not just involving the distribution system of Paleco, but most especially on the transmission lines," Tortola explained.

"This transmission line is more or less a 300-km. line stretching from the northern portion of Puerto Princesa going down to the southern portion of Puerto Princesa. This line connects the generating plants serving Paleco. Now, this line is heavily vegetated as claimed by Paleco. In the event of fault along this line, the interruption would affect almost all of the consumers of the cooperative."

According to Paleco, this transmission line is maintained by the National Power Corp.

The Senate committee on energy, chaired by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, has given the NEA until Friday to probe the prolonged power outages in Puerto Princesa.

Meanwhile, Tortola assured the public that NEA is exerting all efforts to ensure that all electric cooperatives are satisfactorily meeting their obligations to their member-consumers.

"NEA looks not only at the management side of the electric cooperatives, but also their performance. In fact, we frequently ask electric cooperatives to explain the reasons of interruption that affects majority, if not all, of the consumers in the cooperative," he said.

NEA management teams have also been deployed to similarly situated ECs, such as the Masbate Electric Cooperative Inc. (Maselco), Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative Inc. (Casureco 3), Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative Inc. (Daneco), and Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. (Lasureco).

In these ailing ECs, Task Force Duterte was formed, composed of NEA technical and management experts, to reverse their plight. The agency is also looking into the situation of the Abra Electric Cooperative Inc. (Abreco) and other struggling power coops within the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

As directed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi during the NEA anniversary celebrations last week, the agency is poised to take over other ailing electric cooperatives and suspend erring general managers who are found to be remiss of their mandates. (NEA PR/File photo: AAA/PNA)