Remaining CUC power plant staff facing longer hours


Over 20 workers on the power generation side of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. haven’t been allowed to report for work since Jan. 1, 2016, after their Commonwealth-only work permits expired last Dec. 31 and their continued absence is causing concern for the utilities company.

According to CUC acting executive director Gary Camacho, the situation is very concerning and challenging for CUC.

“It is having an impact and we’re really hopeful to get these people back to work and get back to our normal operations and address the issues that we want to address,” Camacho said.

“It’s challenging. The schedule, people are working longer shifts,” he added.

Power generation manager Richard Cano said they can’t keep up with the work load at the power plants.

“There’s so many pending maintenance work and we cannot cope up with the work because we have to do the most important ones,” Cano said.

On Tuesday, CUC and 18 workers sued Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson and other federal officials over the delayed renewal of their permits and also asked the federal court to issue a temporary restraining order that would allow these them to immediately return to work.

Alex Tagaza, among those who filed, said they need to go back to work.

“We really need to go back to work immediately because we have responsibilities there at the power plant,” Tagaza said in Filipino.

There are 94 workers at the power plant including those who currently are not working because of their pending CW-1 permits, however, CUC stressed that those who are not able to work are much needed highly skilled individuals in various areas such as operations, technical, electrical, mechanical, and auxiliary.

Camacho said the workers are dealing with equipment which are about 25 years old and above.

“It’s very, very concerning because the vast amount of work and the limited amount of manpower on top of expertise lost in this process,” Camacho said.

“By not addressing those areas, it’s causing concern, because they are short by 21 highly-qualified personnel from the electrical, mechanic, and the operations sections,” he added.

Camacho said they want to provide safe and reliable power to the community and don’t want to impact the water and wastewater systems because of “potential interruptions” to their power supply should there arise some mechanical failures to the power plant.

“We need this number to be able to address, on top of who we currently have at the power plant now, the wonderful personnel that we have there, to be able to assist us in continuing to monitor and address the day-to-day operations of our power plants,” Camacho said.

Last year, CUC also experienced the same problem in renewing their CW permits for at least some of the same batch of workers. According to legal counsel James Sirok, a handful of workers also “stopped working for a period of time.”

“While there was an effect on the operations at that time, it wasn’t like the effect that we have now because of the amount of workers involved,” Sirok said

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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