IRIGA CITY --- Hundreds of protesters from the 11 electric cooperatives in Bicol Region took the streets here on Monday to support the protest action launched by the Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative (Casureco III) against the proposed measure that grants a private corporation a franchise to operate and manage a distribution system in the province’s Rinconada district.
The protest rally was joined by at least 500 officials and employees of various electric cooperatives in Bicol. They assailed HB 4437 which was authored by Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte of the 2nd district of Camarines Sur. HB 4437 grants the Bicol Light and Power Corp., (BLPC) a franchise to own, construct, operate, manage and maintain an electric power distribution system in the entire third district of the province covering the towns of Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula, Nabua and Iriga City.
The protesters claimed that once Congress grants the BLPC the franchise this would be a signal that other private entities would follow suit threatening existing electric cooperatives in Bicol.
House Bill 4437 was passed and approved on third reading at the House of Congress and was transmitted to the Senate committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe for deliberation.
Bicol Light and Power Corp. (BLPC), is a private company, a profit-oriented and is expected to add on profit to its power rates on top of its recovery of the cost of development and maintenance of its power infrastructure and operation and management of the company, protesters claim.
Anna Sylvia Alsisto, Casureco III Board of Directors chairperson in an interview said they would strongly urge and lobby members of the Senate scrapped the proposed HB for reasons that the granting of franchise to a private corporation would violate the Epira Law.
Alsisto said once Congress grants a commercial corporation to run the electricity distribution system would violate the governments’ electrification program which provides affordable power rates through government subsidy, establish rural electrification in remote villages, member-consumers are the owner of the cooperative, therefore, making the facility a non-stock, non-profit and service-oriented facility.
Casureco III Board in a resolution said that there is no legal basis for the grant of a franchise to BLPC because while the EPira Law provides retail competition and open access this refer only to generation and supply sectors, while the distribution is a monopoly given sole to Casureco III the distribution utility with a franchise until 2029.
Alsisto even cited that there is no existing situation in the country where two power distribution utilities are overlapping in the same coverage area.
She said “granting a franchise to BLPC would only usurp the entire facilities” as she claims that the BLPC has no physical and financial capability to operate, manage and maintain a facility with reportedly declared P50 million capital with only P5 million paid-up capital.
She said “with a P50 million in capitalization it would be impossible for BLPC to construct and manage a distribution facility as compared with the coop which currently has a P871 million assets as of June this year, ” she accused the BLPC as “franchise grabbing ” entity.
While Casureco has current equity of P900 million, the cooperative was able to settle the P153 million in outstanding power bills with the San Miguel Corp.
The coop has a 90 percent collection efficiency as they were able to settle their current bills ranging from P60 to 70 million per month.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) has currently leveled Casureco III as a Category B (satisfactory operation) electric cooperative from the previous Category D (ailing coop) way back in 2014.