At the risk of sounding like it is moving towards a different direction, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) officially called on the leaderships of both Houses of Congress and the Department of Energy (DOE) to keep the existence of electric cooperatives (ECs) in the country.

NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong made the appeal in an interview aired over the weekend on People’s Television (PTV-4), where he discussed at length the crucial role of non-profit distribution utilities in the continuing implementation of the rural electrification program.

“I request the government, especially the Congress and the Department of Energy to revisit their position; to give chance to the electric cooperatives because, at the end of the day, these electric cooperatives are products of a program of the government, the rural electrification program, which for the last 50 years have succeeded in energizing the country,” Masongsong said.

This categorical statement comes on the heels of the controversial endorsement of DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi for the revocation of the franchises of 17 ECs to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which, although it was later on withdrawn, has unnecessarily put the entire rural electrification sector in a negative light.

Masongsong clarified that the NEA did not submit the list for those ECs to be put on the chopping block, but only to inform the DOE—its mother agency—of their current status of operations amid recent allegations of inefficiency.

“In fairness sa DOE Secretary, meron tayong sinubmit na listahan of 17 electric cooperatives on their status as electric cooperatives, status of their operations… But, for the record, I did not recommend (the revocation of their franchises),” he said.

Masongsong reiterated that out of the 121 ECs currently operating in the country, only 10 are considered ‘ailing’—either they are financially bankrupt or technically incompetent—but the NEA is doing everything in its power to help turn them around.

Out of the 121 ECs currently operating in the country, only 10 are considered ‘ailing’—either they are financially bankrupt or technically incompetent.

He cited as example the case of Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO-III), which used to swim in over a billion of debts, but has since improved when the NEA stepped in to initiate some reforms.

“Kasama ang CASURECO-III (doon) sa 17, pero mula ‘nung tinakeover natin as early as January 2017, (it has improved). Dati may utang na P1.2-billion, ngayon P584-million na lang. Ibig sabihin, nagawa natin ang trabaho natin,” Masongsong explained.

Echoing recent media reports, he said the remaining debts of the once troubled co-op has been eased through a special payment agreement with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation. This is on top of the P624 million loan CASURECO-III secured from the Development Bank of the Philippines to help improve its services.

“Nagpirmahan na ng kontrata. Ibig sabihin ngayon ang electric cooperative na ‘yan ay bankable dahil viable na siya. Dati ‘nung tinakeover namin ang revenue nasa P60-million (lang), ngayon almost P100-million a month (na),” the administrator noted.

As an attached agency of the DOE, the NEA continues to abide by the direction of Cusi in the Energy Family under the current administration insofar as achieving the total electrification objective is concerned, Masongsong said.

For that to happen, the national government must consciously recognize the significant contributions of the ECs and their member-consumer-owners on rural development and its impact on nation-building.

Masongsong explained that when he assumed the NEA leadership, he has fashioned his 7-point electrification agenda precisely to help the Duterte administration achieve its ‘Ambisyon Natin’ 2040 policy statement.

The former EC general manager and party-list representative emphasized that sustainable rural development does not happen only by lighting up the last mile of households, but by ensuring that communities in these areas no longer suffer from abject poverty due to political insurgency, among other concerns.

“The rural electrification program is not over until the farthest households and villages have been energized and it won’t be because our targets are constantly moving. Rural electrification is about sustainable social and economic development. We have to keep working,” Masongsong said in a separate statement.

“Rural electrification is about sustainable social and economic development. We have to keep working.”

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