The National Electrification Administration (NEA) is standing by the electric cooperatives (ECs) in Bicol amid concerns over the approval of a proposed measure granting the franchise application of a private corporation to operate a power distribution utility in Camarines Sur.

NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong conveyed this message on Wednesday during a consultative forum organized by the Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

“Our advocacy is to help the electric cooperatives.”

The forum comes in the wake of mounting concerns on the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 4437, which grants legislative franchise to Bicol Light and Power Corporation to operate, manage and maintain a power distribution utility in the same coverage area of Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO III).

Masongsong reiterated the power co-ops’ vital role in achieving the total electrification of the country, and assured them of the agency’s continued support and assistance in their efforts towards improving their operations and services to the consumers.

“Lahat ginagawa natin para maayos ang electric cooperatives sa buong Pilipinas, hindi lang dito sa [Camarines Sur] and Masbate,” Masongsong told officials and members of BECA at the Queen Rose Hall of Robertson Hotel in Naga City.

To recall, the NEA placed CASURECO III under the management of the Task Force Duterte Rinconada Power in February 2017 to rehabilitate its operations. Since then, it made substantial improvement in its performance including a reduction in system loss, increased collection efficiency, and better financial status.

The rural electrification agency also exercised its step-in rights and took over the operations and management of the Masbate Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MASELCO) in the same year owing to its failure to settle its unpaid obligations to the DMCI Masbate Power Corp. (DMPC).

The four party-list representatives of the different EC allied organizations were likewise present in the same forum to speak up on the issue and shed light on the political circumstances that led to the approval of HB 4437.

Rep. Presley de Jesus of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) party-list has vowed to continue defending the interests of all non-stock, non-profit power distribution utilities like CASURECO III before the 18th Congress.

“Ipagpapatuloy ko po kung ano ‘yung nasimulan namin. Ipagpapatuloy ko pa ang ating advocacy… Ang importante sa amin is to protect the 121 electric cooperatives. ‘Yan po ang ginagawa namin at patuloy na ginagawa namin,” de Jesus said.

Representatives Sergio Dagooc and Adriano Ebcas of the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) and Ako Padayon Pilipino party-list groups respectively said they manifested strong opposition to the proposed measure.

Rep. Godofredo Guya of the Rural Electric Consumers and Beneficiaries of Development and Advancement (RECOBODA), on the other hand, advised the Bicol power coops to continue improving their distribution services to their member-consumer-owners (MCO).

Both Masongsong and Guya indicated there are private investors working for major corporations who are really interested in taking over the franchise areas of ECs and the best way to stop them is to show that the MCOs are on the side of the cooperatives.

“Kaya gandahan natin ‘yung serbisyo ng electric cooperative. Hindi naman nagkulang si NEA sa kanyang mandato… Our advocacy is to help the electric cooperatives,” Guya said.

PHILRECA general manager and executive director Janeene Depay-Colingan, meanwhile, appealed to the BECA members to be more cautious of their statements and actions in public as irresponsible conduct of such are detrimental to the One-EC-MCO movement.

BECA is composed of the Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ALECO), Camarines Sur I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO I), CASURECO II, CASURECO III, CASURECO IV, Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CANORECO), First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO), MASELCO, Sorsogon I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SORECO I), SORECO II, and Ticao Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. (TISELCO). 

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