published by the Bohol Standard
In the wake of the continued increase in water and electricity rates, a member of the provincial board had asked: â€œis there money available (budget) for the reported buy-back option of the provincial government to retake the formerly-owned water and electric utilities?â€
Senior board member Dionisio D. Balite asked his colleagues during last Fridayâ€™s Sangguniang Panlalawigan session if there is a budget for such plan of the provincial government.
The lawyer-board memberâ€™s question prompted presiding officer Vice Gov Conching Lim to call for a 3-minute recess as most present SP members were not even aware of the issue vouched during the time of then governor Erico Aumentado.
The plan was to buy-back the twin utilities now owned by the Salcon Group of Companies; registered under the names: Bohol Light Company Incorporated (BLCI) for light and the Bohol Water Utilities Inc., (BWUI) for water. These utilities were formerly operated by the Provincial Public Utilities Department (PPUD).
The two public utilities were turned over to Salcon under the Joint-Venture Agreement (JVA) signed in December 2000 between the company and the provincial government represented by then governor Rene Relampagos.
Under the agreement, the provincial government retains 30% ownership of the company while Salcon controls the bulk of 70%.
Conflict in policy making, dividends and the alleged questionable terms of the joint- venture agreement prompted the Aumentado administration to tap other remedies to repossess the twin utilities.
SP Secretary Bonifacio Quirog, during the recess, volunteered an information that as to his recollection, the question on whether the province has available money for the â€˜buy-backâ€™ option became a contention between then governor Aumentado and his vice governor Julius Herrera.
Then governor Aumentado claimed that there is a surplus fund amounting to P108M in the Land Bank of the Philippines -Tagbilaran Branch and this will be utilized for the buy-back plan to retake the water and power utilities.
Herrera maintained that there is no such P108M â€œsurplusâ€. The conflict in interpretation of availability of funds caused the vice governor to relinquish his post as committee chairman on appropriations. The buy-back plan did not materialized until Aumentado completed his third and last term as governor in 2010.
First district board member Yul Lopez, who was board member during the two terms (2004-07/ 2007-10) of governor Aumentado also confirmed that there was no appropriation for such plan to buy-back the formerly government-owned utilities.