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SPECIAL REPORT | Electric cooperatives and their precarious situation

 

 

 

 

 

First of three parts

THE issues that rocked the electric cooperative community recently seemed to indicate that its situation is far from ideal.

Although there really are exceptions to the rules, electric cooperatives, because of the way they were established, are prone to these situations.

For example, just recently, Palawan legislators asked Congress to investigate the problems being faced by their electric cooperative, the Palawan Electric Cooperative, after the body overseeing its operations, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) intervened two years ago.

The call stemmed from the NEA’s continued control over the entity after the government agency designated a general manager over the cooperative.

Rep. Gil Acosta Jr., the main proponent of the call for a probe, said that even after two years, there has been no real action on improving the situation of the entity.

At home, one case that has stood out has been that of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (whose name was changed to North Davao Electric Cooperative two years ago) which has been facing a call for it to turn over its franchise area to the Davao Light and Power Co.

The call is just a reiteration of a previous one especially when the cooperative started facing a controversy following the battle between two groups over who should run it that resulted in legal and other tussles.

The one affiliated with the NEA gained control over the cooperative and because of the chaos, when former mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte took over the reins of Malacanang, he appointed a group that would run it.

CHALLENGES

Electric cooperatives, by design, are not like regular cooperatives as they are non-stock and non-profit so what small money they make, they can plow back to the communities they serve to expand their services, particularly rural electrification.

It is also this characteristic of not making profits which prevents them from fulfilling their goal – expanding their services – which is very important not only for the rural areas, but more so for urban centers that need power to propel their economic growth.

In situations like this, it is often difficult for them to borrow from private sources because of lack of credit ratings. So their main backbone in these cases is the government, particularly the NEA.

Another huge challenge is that, although some electric cooperatives claim their consumers are members, the same members do not have any other participation in their operations except in choosing the members of their respective boards of directors. 

In some instances, some of these cooperatives are also being run by politicians or those who are beholden to politicians. 

One example is that some of the members of Congress, particularly those in the House of Representatives were or are still officials of their respective cooperatives.

One of them, Rep. Presley de Jesus of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association party-list, has become the subject of a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly keeping his position as president of the board of directors of the Isabela-I Electric Cooperative.

Based on the complaint of the National Association of Electric Consumers for Reforms, which was represented by its executive director, Rafael Acebedo, de Jesus has violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for keeping his position in the cooperative even he has become a legislator through the party-list route.  (To be continued)

 

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