Council to decide whether Kaltimex is fit to operate Asin Hydros

The city council, during the session on January 24, required Kaltimex Energy Philippines, Inc. to submit conclusive documents to convince the legislators that the company has the capability to rehabilitate and operate the three city-owned mini-hydropower plants located at Asin, Tuba, Benguet.

The company was given two weeks to submit to the council a letter signifying their interest to undertake the project, a document reflecting their financial capability, their six-month time table for the project, and the company’s updated profile.

Chaired by Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, the Sanggunian’s Committee on Laws, Human Rights, and Justice will evaluate all these documents and present their findings to the council.

Whether or not the contract between the city government and Kaltimex should be terminated is a decision the city council will make, Tabanda said.

It can be recalled that, in 2018, the city government under the administration of then Mayor Mauricio Domogan, had sued Kaltimex due to the latter’s failure to fulfill its obligations. However, a compromise agreement was signed in February 2020 between the city government under the current administration and Kaltimex.

As part of the agreement, Kaltimex paid the liquidated damages worth P3.6 million and reimbursed the city government’s filing fee of P605,000.00.

Upon the court’s approval of the compromise agreement, the city government issued Kaltimex a Notice to Proceed in February 2020.

On October 19, 2020, Mayor Benjamin Magalong requested the council to enact a resolution terminating the contract on the ground that Kaltimex had failed again to commence the project. To date, the three power plants remain unoperational.

Tabanda relayed to the council that, according to the City General Services Office, it will take one and a half to two years to re-bid the project under the private-public partnership in compliance with the Procurement Law.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan asserted that due process must take place before the city government reaches its final decision on the termination of the contract, thus, the council’s invitation to Kaltimex for a forum.

Olowan, however, stressed that non-submission of documents required by the council is a good ground to terminate the contract with Kaltimex.

According to Engr. Juris Awal, Project Manager of Kaltimex, the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered the company from conducting preliminaries such as bringing in project consultants and skilled workers to the city.

“We cannot do this project alone. We need to import accredited workers, and bringing them here has been a challenge due to  the current situation,” Awal explained.

Awal claimed the company had sent succeeding letters to the executive department starting August 8, 2020 stating the company’s interest to continue with the project and requesting for a joint inspection on the site.

In his letter to Councilor Tabanda dated November 23, 2020, Awal wrote, “the joint inspection could have presented a suggested procedure on how the assessment will be undertaken for enhanced recording and monitoring. The joint inspection is indispensable so that Kaltimex and the city government could have mutually recorded the actual condition of the hydro facilities, its machineries, and equipment.”

Awal further claimed that the physical possession of the facilities should have been completed had the joint inspection been granted and scheduled.

The council said it will invite Mayor Benjamin Magalong in one of its sessions to thresh the whole matter out after evaluating the documents to be submitted by Kaltimex. -Jordan G. Habbiling