TAGUM CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – Thousands of electricity consumers protested Monday the proposed takeover by the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) in some of the franchise area of the Northern Davao Electric Cooperative (Nordeco).
The Coalition Against the Privatization of Electric Cooperatives (CAPECs), which is backing Nordeco along with the National Center of Electric Consumers Cooperative (NCECCO), estimated that 4,000 individuals from Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro joined the peace walk and prayer rally.
CAPECs held the event in response to a motorcade-rally last week led by business owners in the city who joined the clamor for a new power utility to replace Nordeco, which they claimed to have been charging exorbitant rates to its consumers.
The rally culminated at the freedom park where speakers from different sectors took turns in lambasting the four bills in the House of Representatives that seek to let DLPC took over Nordeco’s franchise area in Tagum City, Island Garden City of Samal and the towns of Kapalong, Asuncion, San Isidro, New Corella and Talaingod in Davao del Norte as well as the town of Maco in Davao de Oro.
Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez refiled House Bill No. 5077 that seeks to expand DLPC’s coverage to the cities of Tagum and Samal and the towns of Kapalong, Asuncion, San Isidro, New Corella and Talaingod in Davao del Norte and the town of Maco in Davao de Oro.
Three other house bills pushed for DLPC expansion in the entire or parts of Nordeco’s franchise area namely HB 6995 by Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maricar Zamora and Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Alan Dujali; HB 6740 by Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Partylist Rep. Margarita Ignacia Nograles; and HB 7047 by Marino Partylist Rep. Sandro Gonzales.
Aside from fiery speeches, the rallyists signed two tarpaulin-enlarged manifestos expressing their stand against DLPC’s expansion in Nordeco’s franchise area.
The event started with a morning mass at the Tagum Cathedral officiated by Bishop Medil Sacay Aseo.
Edgardo Masongsong, NCECCO secretary general and former National Electrification Administration head, said the rally should serve as “ice breaker to educate the 200,000 member-consumers of Nordeco to rally behind the cooperative they really owned.”
“They will now understand that what you have been fighting for is for the general welfare of all,” he said in his speech.
He said that electric cooperatives in the country were a brainchild of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. in 1969, with NEA as the supervising arm of the late president’s rural electrification program.
Masongsong established NCECCO during his time, a national organization that is “totally independent” from 121 electric cooperatives in the country. He envisioned NCECCO to build its own renewable energy plants for them to enjoy cheap electricity rates.
He warned Nordeco member-consumers that if they allow DLPC to take over several areas of its franchise, they will be considered mere rental payers and no longer member-consumer owners.
Masongsong recalled purported bad experiences in the past wherein the DLPC tried operating in Samal Island, but when they found that they are not raking profits, they turned it over” to the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative, Nordeco’s former franchise name.
In his video message, Allan Laniba, general manager of Leyte III Electric Cooperative III and Don Orestes Romualdez Electric Cooperative, urged electric cooperative consumers to make a definite stand against DLPC’s expansion into Nordeco’s franchise area.
“We cannot be neutral. We have to make a choice if we are for the people or privatization,” Laniba said.
In a manifesto, CAPECs cited several rejoinders, including respecting Nordeco’s franchise; national government’s priority and equal treatment to Nordeco; the take-over will eventually result to a monopoly of private-for-profit; NEA to continue to adhere in improving the socio-economic status of the people; repeal the EPIRA law; and, Nordeco and 120 other cooperatives in the country be given tenable support and assistance to the fullest extent of the national government. (Chris Panganiban / MindaNews)