THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) has reduced its target for rural villages it plans to deliver power to this year to 635 sitios after the loss of funding that was diverted to the pandemic containment effort.
In a virtual briefing Tuesday, the agency said it had to revise its target for the Sitio Electrification Program from original 964. Apart from lost funding, it also blamed project delays on the quarantine.
“(The) implementation of the remaining sitio targets for the year may not be met due to the remittance of P1.26-billion unutilized subsidy funds to the Bureau of Treasury, as requested by the Department of Finance,” NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong said.
The government aims to fully electrify all households by 2022.
On its 51st anniversary, the NEA said electric cooperatives have brought electricity to 181 more rural villages in the six months to June, mostly in Luzon.
Construction is ongoing in 297 sitios, while projects in 157 have yet to be funded.
The timeline for full electrification has been affected by the pandemic, according to Ernesto O. Silvano, Jr., NEA’s head of Total Electrification and Renewable Energy Development.
He said the goal can still be achieved “if funds come in as scheduled.”
“I think we can still accomplish the target of the administration, provided that… the basis for our numbers (remains) the 2015 census,” Mr. Masongsong said.
Using 2015 numbers, the NEA said it has energized about 96% or 13.71 million households out of the total 14.34 million as of February.
That leaves around 1.83 million still without electricity.
Mr. Silvano said the agency must complete projects at the rate of 4,500 locations each year until mid-2022 to bring power to the remaining 13,000 unenergized sitios.
“With the limited subsidy funding, kailangan i-prioritize ang paglaan ng pondo sa mga areas na medyo mababa pa ang electrification level (we must prioritize funds for areas still with low electrification levels),” Mr. Masongsong said. Among such areas is the Bangsamoro region, he added.
For 2021, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) recommended an NEA budget of P1.8 billion, according to Sonia B. San Diego, the NEA’s deputy administrator for Corporate Resources & Financial Services. The agency’s requested budget is P10.8 billion.
The bulk of the DBM proposed budget, or P1.6 billion, is earmarked for the electrification program, while P200 million is to be set aside for electric cooperatives’ emergency resiliency fund.
“We requested reconsideration and as of now, we haven’t received a reply yet,” Ms. San Diego said. — Adam J. Ang