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Monday, April 15, 2024

Bacolod: Consumers Federation register opposition to NEPC franchise bill

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Bacolod City – The Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) member-consumer-owners (MCO) Federation registered their opposition to House Bill No. 9805, which seeks to grant a franchise to Negros Electric and Power Company (NEPC) through a joint-venture agreement between Prime Electric and CENECO, through a position paper submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Services recently, stating that corporatization of the electric cooperative is not the solution to the power woes in Negros Occidental.

This comes out of the recently concluded Senate Hearing on HB 9805, held within the Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe. Advocates from the anti-JVA coalition present in the hearing were Leonard Guilaran, President of CENECO Union of Rational Employees (CURE), Ernie Pineda of the MCO Federation, and chief legal counsel Atty. Luke Espiritu, exposing the controversial issues in the highly-contested corporate takeover of the electric cooperative.

According to the position paper of the MCO Federation stated that the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed on June 3, 2023 by CENECO Board President Jojit Yap and Acting General Manager Arnel Lapore with Primelectric was “without any authority from the MCOs.” They continued to express that the signing of the JVA was “in direct contravention of the MCOs’ expressed will to reject the JVA,” during the CENECO Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) held on May 28, 2023.

“The CENECO Board seems to have conveniently forgotten that the MCOs have true ownership of the electric cooperative. They did not have the right to make decisions without consulting the body, as it stood as a non-profit and member-owned distribution utility before they sold their souls and signed it over to a private corporation,” said MCO President Ernie Pineda.

“They have not only robbed us of our voice in the decision-making process of the cooperative, but they have also done a great disservice to the consumers by exposing us to higher electricity prices that this corporatization will bring,” Pineda continued.

The paper also highlighted the ouster of the Board of Directors (BOD) and the election of a new interim BOD through a majority vote via a Special Meeting of Members on June 22, 2023.

“The MCOs had exercised their right to vote to remove the now-acting BOD from position through a Special Meeting, citing abuse of power as grounds for removal of Board Members under the CENECO bylaws. The capacity of the now-acting BOD to represent CENECO in any form should be rejected as they do not represent the real interests of the MCOs, which is the highest decision-making body of the cooperative,” said chief legal counsel Atty. Luke Espiritu.

The statement underlined the temporary takeover of the office of the BOD last June 23 as MCOs, union members, and advocates, accompanied by Atty. Espiritu, marched inside the CENECO building to officialize the installation of the Interim BOD by holding their first meeting in protest of the “acting-BOD’s” decisions.

Following the first meeting of the Interim BOD, a declaration of a People’s Action Plan was released, with its main objectives being upholding leadership and empowerment of CENECO’s Member-Consumer-Owners, transforming CENECO into an electric cooperative that serves the best interests of consumers, and committing to supply affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity sourced through renewable energy.

“We urge the Senate of the Philippines to heed the call of Bacolodnons who believe in democracy and the power of cooperatives. Help us defend CENECO by scrapping the unlawful franchise and stand with us on the right side of history,” added Pineda.

(Source: CPR via The Visayan Daily Star)

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