NEA favors Albay Electric Coop conversion
By Manuel T Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY --- The National Electrification Administration was considering in principle the shifting of the problem of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) to a Cooperative to Cooperative operation after a failed privatization under a concession agreement with the giant San Miguel Corporation during the past 8 long years.
The failed SMC owned Albay Power and Energy Corp (APEC) management control of ALECO was rejected by the ALECO consumers during the September 3, 2022 Special General Assembly, citing APEC extra erratic operation for 8 years hounded by frequent brownouts and high power charges since it began operation in 2014. SMC toppled four other giant power service providers, which include Meralco and Aboitiz during the bidding in 2013 for a 25 year concession of ALECO, renewable for another 25 years. But the special ALECO general assembly called by former Gov. Noel Rosal on September 3, outright rejected APEC continuity on ALECO management, which consumers said had blown ALECO debt from P4 billion to 9 billion in its 8 years dismal operation.
On November 21, last year, NEA finally assumed management control of ALECO with the new NEA administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda expressing a favourable view for ALECO shifting to a Cooperative-to-Cooperative management operation. APEC management control of ALECO ended on December 25, 2022.
Under NEA management, ALECO consumers bill for the month of December drastically reduced from 18 pesos per kilowatt hour to P13/kwh.
It will be recalled that APEC management during its first six months operation, boasted that Albay would be experiencing the best power supply in a year time under SMC control.
Strongly backed by then governor now Congressman Joey Sarte Salceda and Legazpi City mayor Rosal in 2013, NEA’s assertion to privatize ALECO won on its battle against the strong resistance put up by the ALECO Union workers and Aleco Consumers Organization. NEA and the entire Albay lawmakers and local government executives rejected the ALECO consumers group proposed Cooperative to cooperative operation with the chosen Baguio Electric Cooperative as partner, in a bid to save Aleco from total bankruptcy.
ALECO as a power cooperative was run by a board of directors from the very beginning. Described as extremely graft-ridden, however, operates in alternate with NEA management control whenever faced by issue of corruption and mismanagement. NEA bid to privatize ALECO in 2013 had the full backing of the Department of Energy under President Benigno Aquino. NEA had asserted that the privatization for ALECO was the ultimate solution to save it from total collapse, citing its huge P4 billion debt from power suppliers.
With the backing of Salceda, Rosal and all other Albay lawmakers including the 3 congressmen from Ako Bicol Party List and local government executives, ALECO transition to privatization, however, only worsened the plight of the ailing ALECO and its consumers into a painful and harrowing experience, said Professor Virgilio Perdigon, a founding member of the ALECO Members Organization.
With the dismal operation under APEC, Salceda and Rosal came under persistent attack from consumers as the two leading Albay executives on ALECO privatization would not lift their fingers nor open their mouths against APEC.
It will be recalled that ALECO benefited a 200 million rehabilitation budget from the P10 billion Calamity Assistance Rehabilitation Efforts (CARE) sponsored by then Senator Joker Arroyo, following Typhoon Reming in November 2006. The ALECO rehabilitation, however, was rocked by corruption scandal under the supervision of a congressman political follower.
Documents obtained by Newsleak Today, showed that in 2013, then Regional Development Council chairman Gov. Salceda had filed a resolution No. 41 S 2013 endorsing Coop-to-Coop operation of ALECO dated September 6, 2013. Salceda himself was the movant of the said RDC resolution, which Nea simply ignored.
With NEA at the back of ALECO operation after APEC, NEA administrator Antonio Marian C. Almeda said they are studying the proposed coop-to-coop management operation.