‘Sorsogon power co-ops should prevent privatization attempts’

Image via BicolToday.com

SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon—Stakeholders of the two power-utility cooperatives operating in the province should strengthen their organizations’ management and finances to foil the conspiracy by local politicians of brokering electricity distribution service for private power firms, a priest said.

Member-consumers of Sorsogon Electric Cooperative I (Soreco I) and Sorsogon Electric Cooperative II (Soreco II) should make the election of the cooperatives’ board of directors as an opportunity to reinforce the cooperatives with competent and honest officials, particularly now when politicians peddle electric cooperatives to power corporations, advocacy priest Rev. Fr. Bong Imperial said.

Soreco II, which currently suffers serious financial troubles and confronted with controversy over the conduct of electing its board of directors, may take the course taken by the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), he said. The government’s public-private partnership (PPP) policy in the power industry approves private firms’ takeover of beset or “sabotaged” electric utility cooperatives.

Aleco’s power distribution in Albay, one of the largest provinces in the region, ended up in its private ownership by San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC) last year due to the cooperatives’ irreversible financial liabilities despite two energy sources in the province—Tiwi and BacMan geothermal plants.

Soreco II had scheduled the election of its board, but twice postponed it due to the contention among officials on the issue of rules that should govern the exercise, Imperial said. Some insist for the new National Electrification Administration (NEA) rules, others for the older cooperative rules. Soreco II member-consumers should push the incoming directors to get the financial status of the cooperative reviewed by an outside auditing outfit, and file charges on liable people, the priest said.

The new board should strengthen Soreco II to prevent the cooperative from a tailspin to insolvency, and eventual takeover by a power firm, Father Imperial said. Soreco I, currently challenged by no financial trouble to justify privatization, is penetrated by local politicians who sow seeds of division in the board, part of the campaign to create conditions that would prompt a call for privatization, Imperial said.

These politicians are bribing board of directors to turn back from the interest of member-consumers and engender situations that would rationalize their agenda of brokering the sabotaged cooperative to power firms, he said. The NEA initially takes over electric cooperatives on the grounds of mismanagement, financial crisis and bankruptcy, Imperial said. The agency later facilitates the bidding of troubled electric cooperatives for private power firms.

Soreco I can be seized by NEA from member-consumers if the conspiracy row, which falls on mismanagement, in the board continues, he said. Privatization of both power-utility cooperatives will make the poor member-consumers poorer, the wealthy richer, Imperial said. What the cooperatives require are competent and honest leaders, who are capable of better power services, good management, and financial stability, not privatization, he said.

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