by Abe P. Belena
BANGUED, Abra—The Abra Electric Cooperative continues to bleed as debts incurred by resigned manager Marco Bautista have ballooned to about P600 million by early this year.
Documents from the National Electrification Administration and other government agencies that included a comprehensive audit report, a table of indebtedness of that cooperative for over 10 years, financial statements, interviews and published reports support the allegation.
The bleeding started in 2005 when the cooperative recorded monthly losses averaging P250,000. The loss continued until its latest financial report submitted to NEA in June last year. The cooperative was found short of cash on hand amounting to P1 million.
A provincial board member, James Bersamin, had started making public those debts when he was gunned down in October 2005. A cousin, the late Chito Bersamin, was assassinated in front of a church in Quezon City two months later.
The bulk of the multi-million debts were owed to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. which inherited it from the National Power Corp. by force of the Epira law.
The cooperative likewise has unpaid taxes of P12 million to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Stripped of its long-term supply contract with Aboitiz since last year, the electric coop had resorted to buying electricity from spot market at a much higher rate than long-term contracted power from a single supplier.
As a result, Abra consumers now buy an average power rate of P12 per kilowatt-hour, higher than Meralco rates and one of the highest in the world, a coop official intimated.
Starting at over P114 million in 2006, the PSALM debt had grown to P355 million by 2014 and about P500 million, records and statements of officials who asked not to be named show.