Sotto vows probe into Batangas Electric Cooperative funds
BATANGAS, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured Batangueños on Thursday, November 29, that the chamber would look into the alleged mismanagement and possibly anomalous franchise of the Batangas Electric Cooperative (Batelec II).
Sotto was at the launch of Power Watch Movement in Balai Isabel in Talisay, where hundreds of consumers representing various sectors in the province presented a manifesto asking for a joint congressional investigation to review and evaluate the performance of Batelec II against the objectives set forth by Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.
Batelec II was granted an exclusive franchise to distribute electricity to two cities and 15 municipalities in the province of Batangas. It has 255,000 electric meters or registered owners.
According to Paquito Lirio, president of Batangas Forum, a survey they conducted revealed that 71% of Batelec II’s consumers are not happy with its service. They have been deprived of privileges and benefits as members of the cooperative yet they have been paying and contributing money equivalent to 5% of the gross revenue monthly as capital expenditure of Batelec II.
Batangas Forum is a lead convenor of the Power Watch Movement.
The manifesto signed by Batelec II members stated that their payments and contributions had accumulated to over P2.4 billion to finance the expansion and rehabilitation of the existing power system. Yet, the quality of electric service of Batelec II continues to be very poor. This November alone, different parts of the town of Talisay experienced 4 days of power interruption. The venue where the launching was held was also using a generator set during the event due to fluctuating power.
A study conducted by professor Benjamin Carandang further revealed that Batelec II has incurred accumulated losses of over P393 million as of December 2017, despite a monthly estimated collection of P250 million.
“Papaano malulugi ang isang organisasyon na walang kakumpetensiya? Napakalaki ng paluwal ng pamahalaang pambansa bukod sa ibinabayad ng consumers. Dalawang bagay lamang ang iniisip ng mamamayan: mismanagement and corruption,” Lirio said.
(How can an organization with a monopoly of the market incur losses? There’s a huge subsidy from the national government, aside from what consumers pay. There are only two explanations residents can think of: mismanagement and corruption.)
He added that Batelec II has numerous unexplained and excessive charges per kilowatt used and is obviously an ailing electric cooperative because it has no means of meeting its outstanding obligations due to financial, technical, and institutional inefficiency.
Sotto said that while Congress usually just gives a term of 25 years for electricity franchise, he learned that the National Electrification Administration (NEA) granted Batelec II a franchise for 50 years.
“Siguro talagang dapat tingnan kung anomalous ‘yung franchise sapagkat simula noong 1987 Constitution eh 25 years lang ang ibinibigay sa mga franchise. Paano nagkaroon ng 50 years na franchise ang isang kumpanya? Kung ito nga ay isang NEA franchise na ibinigay noong 1980 puwedeng tingnan kung ito ay dapat bang i-renew nila o ibigay sa iba, mapapag-aralan naming mabuti” the Senate President said.
(There surely is a need to look into whether the franchise is anomalous, since under the 1987 Constitution, only 25-year franchises are granted. So how come a company got a franchise for 50 years? Now, if this was a franchise granted by NEA in 1980, then we can look into whether this should be renewed or granted to others. We can carefully study this.)
Sotto committed to asking the Senate committee on energy to look into the controversy.
Secretary Dennis Hernandez, the presidential adviser for Southern Tagalog, also attended the event and received a copy of the manifesto for him to present to President Rodrigo Duterte.
The movement is urging the President to issue an order directing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and NEA to investigate all actions of the Batelec II board of directors and officers for violation of any of the provisions of the National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013 and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001. – Rappler.com
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