Pro co-op conversion reps may block DOE, ERC, NEA budgets

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 Sept) – Representatives supporting the conversion of electric cooperatives from the regulation of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) might block the budgets of the Department of Energy (DOE), the NEA, and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) if the agencies do not make the members’ contribution for capital expenditures (MCC) transparent.

Rep. Crecente Paez, of the Cooperative-National Confederation of Cooperatives (Coop-NATCO), said Saturday they wrote separate letters to the DOE and the ERC last week to let them know of their group’s position amid budget hearings in Congress.

“We want the MCC to be clearly accounted for and for the electric cooperatives to treat it as owned by the electric consumers,” Paez added after he and Atong Koop Rep. Isidro Lico spoke at the Bukidnon Power Consumers Forum here organized by the CDA, the Association of Consumers of Electricity, and the Provincial Cooperative Development Council.

He cited a core group of eight party-list representatives who backed the move and now being supported by at least 20 other congressmen.

“We want the ERC to issue a memorandum to electric cooperatives to account the MCC and for them to report about how the money was used,” Paez added.

Lico said the campaign for the conversion is snowballing in Congress with the 57-member party list block.

He said the electric cooperatives must be directed to disclose the details of their capex (capital expenditures), the account to which the MCC were supposed to be spent.

Rep. Nicanor Briones, of the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP), and other party-list groups last month have announced their demand for an investigation on the alleged questionable electric charges being passed on to consumers by electric cooperatives.

AGAP has announced that around P55 billion from close to five million member-consumers is in question.

Briones sent a letter to Rep. Joseph Emilo Abaya, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, asking the deferment of the approval of the budget of the DOE, (NEA) and ERC until the questionable electric charges are clarified.

Paez said the NEA should also allot funds for the education campaign en route to a referendum on the transfer of electric cooperatives to CDA.

“If they will not give this a chance, we will block the approval of their budget in Congress,” Paez said.

But he clarified that they are not compelling the ERC and the NEA to convert the electric cooperatives. He said they are only asking them to make the electric cooperatives use of the MCC more transparent.

The group admitted though that the campaign among the coop block among the partylist representatives is for the conversion of electric cooperatives as stock cooperatives under the CDA.

Orlando Ravanera, CDA 10 regional director and currently officer in charge of the CDA, has strongly campaigned for the conversion. He said the move would make power rates cheaper as electric cooperatives registered with the CDA are tax exempt and make consumers really become owners of the firms with dividends at the end of the year. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)