THE PETITION to append to the operations of Davao Light and Power Co. (Davao Light) the remaining areas in Davao del Norte of the North Davao Electric Cooperative (Nordeco) is a legal issue and needs a referendum, a source in the government said.
In a private message to TIMES, the source, who did not want to get identified because of his sensitive position in government, said that to trigger the petition, consumers within the area need “to vote in a referendum to trigger the action by lawmakers (to pass a bill on the issue).”
The source, an expert on the power industry, explained that a law is needed to transfer the franchise area of a public utility entity, in this case a cooperative, to another entity, a private company.
This same process was also exercised when three local government units chose to be serviced by Davao Light over Nordeco, then known as Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco).
In 1976, the municipalities of Panabo, Carmen and Sto. Tomas chose Davao Light as their electricity provider over Daneco. In 1998, Braulio Dujali was carved out of Carmen, while Panabo became a city three years later.
The same source added that among the local government units in Davao del Norte, it is the Island Garden City of Samal which is “ideally positioned” to transition to being serviced by Davao Light because the submarine cable that provides electricity to the island is connected to the transmission system of Davao Light on its way to the Mindanao electricity grid.”
Based on earlier reports, a consumer group in the island city, the tourism capital of the Davao Region, was the one who initiated an online petition to transfer the areas in the province to Davao Light.
“But Nordeco has a different plan. It is implementing a P1.1 billion submarine cable from Pantukan (in Davao de Oro) which is 14 kilometers from Samal. The question now is where will it secure the fund for the project when it still has debts to pay?” he said.
He added that the cooperative should have maintained the submarine cable that is connected to the Davao Light system and wait for the setting up of a bridge between Samal and the mainland so that when the bridge is completed, “there is no need for a submarine cable (as the bridge can be used in connecting the Samal line to the grid) and that the rates will eventually go down.”
He added that the loan that will be used in building submarine cable that will connect the grid to Samal from Pantukan will eventually be passed on the consumers of the cooperative “because it is its assets and not that of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.”
“Naturally, the rates will go up because of the debt. It will not just be consumers in Samal who will pay it but all the people under the franchise area of Nordeco,” he explained.
He said that by the time the new submarine cable project is completed, “the Davao Samal bridge may have been completed, too.”
Earlier, Nordeco, through general manager Mario Angelo Sotto, confirmed to TIMES that the cooperative is pursuing the submarine cable between Pantukan and Samal.
Sotto also blamed politicians that the petition, which started online, was a brainchild of some politicians in the two provinces who wanted to make money out of the transfer of the franchise area of the cooperative to the private company.
Admitting that the cooperative was also in a lot of controversy in the past, Sotto, whose group was tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to manage it, said that the management has raised its efficiency level that resulted in its getting some awards.
Since about a decade ago, the cooperative has been mired in controversy which started when two groups tried to outdo each other in taking over its reins. One of the protagonists tried to place the cooperative under the oversight of the Cooperative Development Authority, while the other maintained that it must be under the National Electrification Administration.
In the legal battle that ensued, the one affiliated with the NEA won.
Also electric cooperatives are not regular cooperatives as they are non-stock, non-profit entities and they are mandated that whatever their small margins in their operations must be used to expand their coverage to include unserved areas.
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