The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) calls on President Benigno Aquino III to veto a Congressional Act which provides for a wholesale takeover by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of all electric cooperatives in the country and paves the way for their corporatization that will further put the country’s power industry into the hands of a few oligarchic monopolies.

The Congressional Act, otherwise known as “an act strengthening the National Electrification  Administration (NEA), further amending for the purpose of  Presidential Decree No. 269, as amended, otherwise known as the NEA Decree” would grant the agency more powers than the massive ones it already has to “enable” the electrical cooperatives to “cope with changes in the industry” created under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), specifically upon implementation of the open access and retail competition.

For an electric cooperative to cope with EPIRA policies, it would practically mean NEA intervention in all aspect of its life as the latter, armed with step-in rights and police powers shall be allowed to supervise the management and operations of all the ECs to comply with the EPIRA law. Using “ailing cooperatives” as an excuse, the Congressional Act would bestow on NEA exclusive and absolute power over all cooperatives – good or bad performing.

What makes the rationale behind the new NEA Act highly suspicious is the fact that its current Charter provides more than sufficient powers for the NEA to execute its mandate.  Presidential Decree 1645 defines provisions on NEA’s exercise of corporate powers, imminent domain, limited court review, to investigate, and many other regulatory powers over the ECs.  In fact, PD 1645 which increased NEA’s capitalization and expanded its regulatory power over the Electric Cooperatives, is mockingly described by Electric Cooperatives people as the “M16 and Calibre 45 policy,” alluding to the dictatorial nature of NEA’s disciplinary powers provided under the law.

The only conclusion that can be derived from this legislation is that the powers that be that monopolize and control the electric power industry would like to corporatize and later fully privatize the electric cooperatives. Patently obvious has been the role of Senator Sergio Osmeña and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras – both linked to economic oligarchs now enjoying the massive superprofits from an oligopolistic electric power industry – in the passage of Senate Bill 3389 and its adoption en toto by the House of Representatives and now incorporated into a new Congressional Act.

President Aquino should realize that if he signed this NEA Reform Bill, he will in effect pass the death sentence on what remains structurally that part of the electric power industry where consumers still exercise a modicum of participatory governance. The NEA Reform Bill runs contrary to his promise to the people for more transparency and accountability – measures which can only be possible under greater public participation and control. Aquino’s approval will also be a step backward from the earlier pronouncement of his administration to take the option of a state control and management of the two key hydropower plants in Mindanao – Agus and Pulangi.

A bad foretaste of what is yet to come from NEA given its draconian powers is how it has been suppressing the growing vibrance of people’s participation in the case of the Albay Electric Cooperative.  This electric cooperative is among those lined up by NEA for take-over and immediate corporatization. Instead of facilitating ALECO’s democratically chosen “Cooperative to Cooperative” approach to rehabilitate, the NEA opted to “sabotage” ALECO’s partnership with Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) and loan package from the Development Bank of the Philippines, both of which were designed to rehabilitate ALECO on the technical side and address its financial liabilities. What a pity if the President allows himself to be duped by the electric power oligarchs.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition, together with the Albay Electric Cooperative Employees Association, Koop Ko ‘To Movement, and the NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, calls on President Aquino to reconsider and veto the measure as it runs contrary to its intent of empowering and democratizing the electric cooperative sector.

(Signed)
RICARDO B. REYES
President, Freedom from Debt Coalition

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