21 March 2013
The Koop Ko ‘To Movement – a movement of consumer groups and labor unions in rural electric cooperatives (RECs) – strongly opposes the proposed National Electrification Administration (NEA) Reform Bill and urges President Benigno S. Aquino III to veto the said measure.
The NEA Reform Bill awaits the final approval by the President after both versions of the Senate and House of Representatives passed the third and final reading before Congress adjourns sine die on February 8.
The consolidated version of Senate Bill 3389 and House Bill 6214 is a template for corporatization/privatization of consumer-owned utilities such as the RECs and supplants the long-held principle of cooperativism and democracy in the national electrification program.
Both Senate Bill 3389 authored by Sen. Serge Osmeña and the consolidated House Bill 6214 provide NEA step-in rights which authorizes the agency to:
• take-over an ailing electric cooperative;
• replace the entire Board, the general manager, and the workers; and,
• convert it to either stock cooperative or a stock corporation.
The Koop Ko ‘To Movement believes that after the complete private takeover of National Power Corporation or Napocor’s generation plants and transmission facilities courtesy of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), this new piece of legislation is deviously crafted to effect a creeping corporate takeover of the RECs which currently cover a captive market of nine (9) million households in 119 franchise areas all over the country.
The Movement opposes this kind of power shift – from a missionary, non-profit, consumer-owned/community-based national electrification program to a market-based, profit-driven initiative in providing universal access to electricity.
Instead, the Movement is pushing for a shift to energy democracy and sustainable energy framework where people can exercise control over energy resources and the way electricity is produced and allocated to all. And while pushing for the democratization of all electric cooperatives and the shift to renewable source of energy, the Movement is also advocating for a rejection of any plan to privatize the RECs.
Furthermore, the proposed NEA Reform Bill is anti-democratic, anti-labor and anti-consumer as it undermines the structures as well as the rights and powers of the real owners of electric cooperatives – the consumers and the cooperative workers themselves.
This is quite evident in the case of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO), where the EC has undertaken steps to improve its financial viability and finally get out of the red through a “cooperative to cooperative” or C2C initiative. This C2C option was approved by ALECO’s General Assembly as well as the ALECO Multi-sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO).
But along the way, the NEA had “stepped-in” (even before the enactment of the law) by pushing for a PSP or private sector participation, which ALECO members believe, “is just a step away from privatization”.
Creating a super-NEA at this point when its mission for total electrification is in near completion and when many cooperatives have already gained financial and operational improvements based on the agency’s own report can only be viewed as ill-motivated and highly questionable.
Today, there are 119 rural electric cooperatives s in the country providing energy for poor rural households, agricultural production and agri-businesses. Consumer-owned RECs contribute to accessible sustainable sources of energy needed for local economic development.
The Koop Ko ‘to Movement strongly suspects that private powers have succeeded in getting the government support their plan for a complete take-over of the power industry, including the consumer-owned RECs. -30-