45 priests assail Albay power co-op selective restoration

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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay: Forty-five Catholic priests under the Diocese of Legazpi signed an open letter to the Department of Energy and San Miguel Energy Corp (SMEC) appealing for the early restoration of power supply in Albay even as it assailed what they branded as anti-poor “prioritization scheme” against the majority marginal consumers.

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SMEC took over the ailing Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) of more than 230,000 consumers in January but the local business community in a resolution issued in June described the power supply in Albay as dismal and frustrating.

Monsignor Ramon Tronqued, Legazpi St. Raphael de Arcangel parish priest and vicar general of the Diocese St. Gregory Cathedral described the SMEC power service as “inefficient to the maximum.”

Tronqued is the first signatory in the open letter which also called the attention of Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, among the major proponents of Aleco’s privatization.

The open letter was prompted by the delayed restoration of power in Albay since Typhoon Glenda on July 15, placing the restored power to only 30 percent so far according to the Aleco Labor Employees Organization (Aleo).

The open letter assailed the SMEC prioritization policy as consumers with records of unpaid electric bills would not be energized.

“We urge SMEC to abandon its prioritization scheme saying it was the poor consumers who after all voted for the privatization against the equally co-op to co-op proposal by Aleo during a consumers assembly,” said the open letter.

The priests minced no words in describing the SMEC power service as frustrating eight months after its Aleco acquisition. The dismal power service had reinforced calls by Aleo for a boycott in payment of electric bills as consumers complained of terrible damaged in appliances caused by the strange brownout frequency.

Some priests said the open letter was not the Diocese of Legazpi stand as it was not signed and endorsed by Legazpi Diocese Bishop Joel Baylon. But many priests in Albay could have signed if the letter reached them.

On July 25, 10 days after Typhoon Glenda hit the province, the SMEC-created Albay Power Energy Corp. which is managing Aleco sent advisory to all barangays that consumers without clearance from Apec would not have their electricity restored. This developed following the boycott move spearheaded by the Aleco Labor Employees Organization and reinforced by a resolution from the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry in June.

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