By Gerry Salapuddin
As far as I am concerned, if there is is any invention of man which is the most important, it is electricity. Without electricity, the world will be largely in darkness. Without electricity that provided power and energy, industries and factories would have not existed. Without electricity, industrialization would have not been possible. Mankind would still be backward and progress is slow, if not difficult.
In today’s modern world, everything is run by electricity, whether it is power using fossil fuel, nuclear, geothermal and other natural sources of power and energy. In Japan for instance, their Bullet Train or Shinkasu is run by electricity, not by fossil fuels.
The reason I discuss this matter about power, energy or electricity, because this is the recurring and perpetual problem in Basilan and Sulu, the lack of power and energy to light homes and businesses and energize local industries. In Basilan Province, since more than two decades, blackouts in the night and brownouts at daytime is a daily routine of BASELCO or Basilan Electric Cooperative.
The frequent on and off and the sudden upsurge of power when it is turned on had destroyed appliances and machines. Businesses are affected when there is no power. Works in the office or construction sites are delayed and affected by the recurring power failure everyday.
I can vividly recall, when I first ran for Governor, as a neophyte political leader and an MNLF leader who negotiated peace locally with the Marcos government, facilitated by the then Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, through the efforts of Col. Eduardo Ermita and LtCol. Sillona, both from the Ministry of Defense, during my Miting de Advance at Plaza Rizal, Isabela, as I delivered my speech, the light was turned off by the BASELCO management, by instruction of the then OIC Governor Louis W. Alano.
Anyway, despite all they did against me, including laying an ambush against me in Matarling, Lantawan, after my evening campaign in Maluso, by Allah’s will, I won the election which was deemed impossible that time, to become the first duly elected Yakan Governor of Basilan.
On my first week at the old Provincial Capitol at Isabela, I summoned Engr. Reginaldo Bucoy, the General Manager of BASELCO to my Office. As he enters my office, noticeably, he was apprehensive and looking pale, because he was guilty of what he did to me. Instead of scolding him or being vengeful against him, I told him: “Don’t be afraid. I did not invite you to my office because I have an axe to grind against you. I invited you as Governor of Basilan to purposely ask you, if what can I do to help BASELCO augment its lack of power.” Only then there was blood in his paled face and I can see he was feeling at ease.
He then replied: “Thank you very much Sir for your magnanimity in victory and your expression of support to BASELCO.” He told me that they have outstanding request from the National Electrification Administration or NEA for the construction of a mini-hydro power plant, tapping the Kumalarang River. He also told me that we must also request the National Power Corporation or NAPOCOR to provide us a floating power barge and two land based generating sets. After that meeting with BASELCO GM Engr. Bucoy, I decided that we go together to Manila to talk to NEA and NAPOCOR. Our joint efforts yielded favorable results. NAPOCOR sent a power barge to Basilan, anchored at Tabuk, Isabela. And NEA approved the loan of BASELCO for the construction of the mini-hydro in Kumalarang River and sent two land based generating sets.
Since then, BASELCO managed to expand its electrification to all the other towns of Basilan, aside from Isabela, Lamitan, then both were municipalities, but were the commercial centers of Basilan.
Unfortunately, after I ended my term as Governor of Basilan, succeeded by Gov. Wahab Akbar for 9 years, followed by his wife Gov. Jum Jainuddin-Akbar for 9 years and currently Gov. Jim Salliman-Hataman, on his second term now, or a number of 23 years, the power supply of BASELCO had never been augmented. Due to stable peace and order and the implementation of basic infrastructures like roads and bridges by the then ARMM government under Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman and on the other hand the improving economic well-being of our people, more and more of our people are building new houses and putting up more businesses, causing lack of power supply in Basilan.
I therefore strongly call on the Energy Regulatory Commission or ERC to approve the power rate application of Lamitan City Power which entered into a Purchase Power Agreement with BASELCO, so that their standby 5 Megawatts land based gensets can be operationalized to significantly augment the power supply of BASELCO.
I would also like to call upon NAPOCOR to rehabilitate their floating power barge because only one engine is operational. Or better yet, they recall this old power barge and replace it with a functional power barge.
Farther, I would also like to call on GRECKO, the other power supplier of BASELCO to augment and/or replace their engines, in order to stop once and for all this miserable lives of living in the dark.
And finally, I would like to request Gov. Jim Salliman-Hataman and Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman to support BASELCO in making assertive representation with the concerned agencies of government regarding the power problem of Basilan.
And if nothing is done about this problem, since BASELCO has failed to find way to augment its power supply for the past 23 years, then, the possibility of privatizing it must be another option. GS