DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Some 3,000 people staged a protest rally in Tagum City to voice their opposition to the power rates of the Northern Davao Electric Cooperative (Nordeco), which supplies electricity to Davao de Oro province, and major cities of Davao del Norte.
“The power rates of Nordeco are no longer bearable, both for the business community and the ordinary people,” said Aerol Conde, president of the Tagum City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated in Davao del Norte.
The rally, staged on Monday, March 13, marked the first time the province’s business community helped organize an open protest under the Davao Consumer Movement.
Davao del Norte, which is home to over a million people and the major cities of Tagum, Panabo, and Samal island, heavily relies on tourism as a significant contributor to its economy.
Officials said Nordeco’s relatively high power rates have resulted in an increase in operational costs for tourism-related businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and resorts in Tagum and Samal.
Frequent power outages have also characterized Nordeco’s services, resulting in negative reviews and feedback from tourists.
By comparison, the adjacent city of Panabo and several towns in Davao del Norte, which fall under the franchise area of the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Company Incorporated (DLPCI), enjoy much lower power rates compared to those under the franchise area of Nordeco, he said.
Conde said power rates in the franchise areas of the DLPCI average between P11.29 to P11.50 per kilowatt hour compared to Nordeco’s P17 to P18.50 per kilowatt hour.
“For quite a long time, we in the business community have suffered in silence because we were afraid to speak up lest Nordeco would get back on our businesses. This time, we are pooling our resources together to mobilize protest actions against Nordeco’s unreasonably high power rates,” said Conde.
Aside from the relatively high power rates, Conde said the erratic power supply of Nordeco has also been adversely affecting the local business community.
“This is a big turnoff to investors. Many resorts in Samal island are operating at a loss because of it. With our high power rates plus the erratic supply of electricity, no one would want to invest here,” Conde said.
Local officials such as Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib and Tagum Mayor Rey Uy were behind the advocacy.
In a statement, Jubahib said, “I stand in solidarity with the Tagum Chamber of Commerce and the Davao Consumer Movement in their protest against the high power rates and poor services of Nordeco. I share their concern and understand the impact that this issue has on the lives of our constituents.”
Jubahib said he was supporting proposals in the House of Representatives to expand the franchise of the DLPC from Davao City to areas under the Nordeco franchise.
He also said there was a need to hold power distribution companies accountable for their services.
For her part, Nordeco general manager Elvira Alngog said the proposed measures would take away 70% of their franchise area in favor of DLPCI, and they “will never allow that to happen.”
She said power consumers in Samal Island, which is a premiere tourism hub, have been suffering from an erratic supply of electricity, but Nordeco was currently installing a submarine cable from the mainland to the island.
She said Nordeco would be able to solve Samal’s power supply problem this month or in April.
Alngog also said she doubted the motivation of those behind the protests against Nordeco, but she did not elaborate further. – Rappler.com
Ferdinand Zuasola is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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