TAGUM CITY (MindaNews / 13 March) – Citing “legal and constitutional infirmities,” the Northern Davao Electric Cooperative (Nordeco) urged the House of Representatives to reject proposals seeking to expand the franchise of Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) in the former’s area of operations.
In a press conference, on Monday, David Campoamor, Nordeco legal counsel, said the four proposed resolutions are “unconstitutional” since the electric cooperative’s franchise will still end in 2028 in mainland Davao del Norte and 2033 in Samal Island.
He cited Section 27 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which allows electric cooperatives in the country to operate in full term.
“To make us stop our operation is a violation of our constitutional right since we still have more years to operate before we renew our franchise,” Campoamor said.
Another legal counsel, Jorge Rapista, said the four proposed legislations have the same content with that of House Bill 10554 authored by Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte’s 1st District, which was vetoed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. last year on the ground that Nordeco’s franchise is still existing.
Should the four measures pass the legislative mill, Nordeco officials expressed confidence Marcos will “veto them just like what he did to the Alvarez bill.”
Nordeco’s call for the Lower House to trash the measures, or for Marcos to veto them should they hurdle the legislative mill, came in the heels of a rally last week led by the Tagum Chamber of Commerce and Industry protesting the high electricity rates charged by Nordeco.
However, the electric cooperative got the support of two major energy consumer groups, which staged a prayer vigil and candle-lighting in Tagum City on Wednesday night to protest proposals in Congress to expand the franchise of DLPC.
At least 300 members of the Coalition Against Privatization of Electric Cooperatives (CAPECs) and the National Center of Electric Consumers Cooperative (NCECCO) attended the rally dubbed “Pagtukaw alang sa Nordeco” (Vigil for Nordeco) to express their opposition to House Bill Nos. 5077, 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.
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, said 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.
Rene Boy S. Abrea, NCECCO chair for Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte, said the four bills should be rejected since Marcos 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.
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 (PSALM) 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.
Reacting to the Tagum businessmen’s complaint of higher electricity rates in February, Elvera Alngog, Nordeco acting general manager, said that charges went up after the PSALM increased the cooperative’s energy supply from 15 megawatts (MW) to 20 MW.
In the February billing, residential consumers were charged P17 per kilowatt hour (kwh)from P15 per kwh in the previous month’s billing.
Alngog dismissed some businessmen’s claims that the frequent power interruptions in the city was caused by a load curtailment, explaining that Nordeco is allotted a total of 135 MW, enough to supply even new industries.
Nordeco counsel Campoamor said they will sit down with the business chamber leaders to clarify allegations that the cooperative still owes a huge debt of P3.9 billion, when in fact it is already down to at least a billion pesos through a loan restructuring program. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)