Groups oppose refiling of bills expanding franchise of Aboitiz-owned power firm

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 09 March) – Two major energy consumer groups staged a prayer vigil and candle-lighting in Tagum City on Wednesday night to protest proposals in Congress to expand the franchise of the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC).

At least 200 members of the Coalition Against Privatization of Electric Cooperatives (CAPECs) and the National Center of Electric Consumers Cooperative (NCECCO) that attended the rally dubbed “Pagtukaw alang sa Nordeco” (Vigil for Nordeco) to express their opposition to House Bill Nos. 50777, 6740 and 7047.

HB 5077 was filed by Davao del Norte 1st District 1 Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez, HB 6740 by Rep. Margarita Ignacia B. Nograles of PBA Partylist, and HB 7047 by Rep. Sandro L. Gonzales of MARINO Partylist.

Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) linemen. Mindanews file photo

The three bills seek to expand the franchise of DLPC to the Cities of Tagum and Island Garden City of Samal, and the towns of Talaingod, Asuncion, Kapalong, San Isidro, and New Corella in Davao del Norte, and Maco town in Davao de Oro, according to CAPECs chair Angelo Cofreros.

Another proposal, HB No. 6995 filed by Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen S. Zamora and Davao de Oro 2nd District Rep. Allan R. Dujali, only seeks to expand the DLPC franchise to Samal Island.

For his part, Rene Boy S. Abrea, NCECCO chair for Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte said that the bills should be rejected since President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had vetoed on July 27, 2022 HB 10554, which would have placed Tagum City, Samal, and the towns of Asuncion, Kapalong, New Corella, San Isidro, and Talaingod under the franchise area of DLPC.

These areas are being serviced by Nordeco, which has an existing franchise for the mainland until 2028 and Samal until 2033.

In her explanatory note, Nograles said HB 6740 would seek to expand the franchise of DLPC by including those same areas in the vetoed bill, and Maco town in Davao de Oro in the jurisdiction of DLPC.

DLPC currently services Davao City, Panabo City, and the townss of Carmen, Dujali and Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.

“Over the years, Nordeco has suffered from losses and conflicting factions within the cooperative which have led to inadequate infrastructure, piling debts to service providers including power suppliers, cancelled power supply contracts, excessive systems losses, and failure to energize parts of its franchise area even up to this time,” Nograles said.

CAPECs called for the following in the manifesto of support signed by its officers: respect the franchise of Nordeco; priority and equal attention to Nordeco and all electric cooperatives in the distribution of power supply from Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation as partners and implementation arm of the national government in the missionary electrification program; and support and strengthen the electrification services and programs of electric cooperatives through legislative interventions and laws, not privatization by private for-profit companies.

It said the takeover of Nordeco will eventually result in the monopoly of private for–profit entities in the energy sector, depriving the rights and opportunities of owning an electric cooperative among the underprivileged, especially in the countryside.

It also called on the National Electrification Administration to continue to adhere to its mandate of improving the socio–economic status of the people in the countryside through the total electrification program by providing technical, institutional, and financial assistance to the electric cooperatives nationwide and repeal the Electric Power Reform Act of 2001 and Republic Act 10531 or the National Electrification Administration Act of 2013 on converting the electric cooperatives into corporations, which they said is similar to privatization.

In a statement issued on March 2, a consumers organization in Davao Region called Nordeco inefficient in “providing power to its franchise area” and blamed the government regulators for its failure to hold the electric cooperative accountable for its “poor services.”

“Over the years, we have experienced countless power outages that have affected our daily lives, businesses, and ultimately the local economy. Despite repeated complaints and calls for action, Nordeco has failed to address these issues and provide a more reliable and efficient power supply,” Ryan Amper, co-convenor of Davao Consumer Movement, said.

Amper also hit Nordeco for its decision to continue sourcing power for Samal Island from a private company instead of repairing the existing underground cable.

He said this decision would affect consumers in the island, as it would result in higher electricity costs.

Nordeco is getting its power supply from the Mindoro Power Corp. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)