Thousands of energy users from all over the country gathered on Wednesday to make a collective pitch for genuine and lasting changes in the power industry during the first National Summit of Electric Consumers.
Organized by the National Center of Electric Cooperative Consumers, Inc. (NCECCO), the forum served as a launch pad for rural energy companies to promote new initiatives aimed at empowering their members, consumers and owners (MCO).
National Electrification Administration (NEA) Chief Edgardo Masongsong graced the event to throw the Duterte Administration’s support behind NCECCO and its adopted manifesto that called for state protection on the rights of electricity consumers nationwide.
Masongsong told the estimated 5,000 summit attendees at the atrium of Tagum City Hall to help their electric cooperatives (EC) come up with new development programs that would improve the energy situation in their respective areas.
“Siguro ito na ang panahon sa pamamagitan ng NCECCO na palakasin natin (ang ating mga sarili). Gumawa tayo ng kilusan, gumawa tayo ng mga programa at proyekto para iangat ang buhay ng lahat ng mamamayang Pilipino,” the administrator said in his message.
With the theme “NCECCO: An Electric Consumers Movement for Change,” the summit steered all ECs and their respective MCOs towards a new direction in line with the seven-point agenda of the NEA administrator.
“The NEA as our partner is always there. We look forward to productive electric cooperatives (under the current leadership) that will cater to the needs of our consumers. We see a bright future,” NCECCO national chairman Akmad Mamalinta said.
The organization has pushed for several agenda in its manifesto including, among others, its strong opposition to any future plans that would privatize or convert some ECs into a government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCC).
“Electric coops are owned by electric consumers and should not be converted into GOCC,” NCECCO declared. The group likewise advocated the removal of value added tax on energy consumption to reduce power rates.
NCECCO also reiterated its support for the rural electrification program of the NEA and its “Task Force Duterte Power,” which was set up just a few weeks ago to assist ECs that are currently facing economic problems.
Majority of the summit attendees, particularly those that hail from the Davao region, also backed the Supreme Court order recognizing the authority of the NEA over the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Daneco) management.
It would be recalled that the NEA, through the said task force, took over the operations of Daneco last March as an attempt to bail it out from its numerous legal battles that negatively affected its MCOs.
NCECCO, moreover, vowed to lobby for the review of proposed amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA). This is on top of the additional regulatory powers it wants to give the NEA to beef up its supervision of ECs.
Mamalinta is positive that all of these can be achieved through their collective efforts and with the support of the agency. “The realignment of so many activities including the new policy thrusts of the NEA spell out the difference this time around. We really see a bright future,” he said.