By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
OFFICIALS of electric cooperatives in Mindanao gathered in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend to mount their last ditch effort against the congressional national franchise for distribution of solar energy to off grid areas in the country which will be operated by the company operated by the son of Senator Loren Legarda.
The opposition against House Bill 8179 that will grant the non exclusive national franchise to “Solar Para Sa Bayan(SPSBP)” company owned by Leandro Leviste to construct solar power mini grids nationwide were aired by top leaders of Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) and the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) in a press conference at Lim Kit Kai Luxe Hotel.
Some 382 board of directors and executives of at least 28 electric cooperatives in Mindanao have gathered here for the two-day 3rd Amreco Annual General Membership Assembly and Summit.
“Let us be clear on this. We are not against the renewable solar energy but the (monopolistic) franchise,”said Sergio Dagooc, president of the National Association of General Managers of Electric Cooperatives (Nagmec).
Dagooc questioned the motives behind SPSB saying constructing solar powered batteries to provide electricity in the far-flung areas no longer needs congressional franchise. “There is a hidden agenda on this and we believe Leviste only want to monopolize the solar power distribution in the country.”
For his part, lawyer Janeene Colingan , Philreca general manager, said the House Bill 8179 which will be deliberated on December 12 at the House Committee on Rules was deliberately pushed with deception and misrepresentation being worked out by Leviste.
She admitted their move, even it had alrfeady gathered at least 119,000 signatures in the petition against the bill, still faces an uphill battle considering that 180 congressmen supported it. “This is our last hurrah until December 12,”Colingan said.
Corazon Cullantes, Amreco president, also questioned SPSB capability to be an independent solar energy provider citing reliable steady supply of energy in Paluan in Occidental Mindoro. “We are opposing g this because of their inexperience. They only use bamboo poles in their solar panels there. Imagine, they are applying for the mega franchise?”.
Presley de Jesus, Philreca president, said their 121-strong member cooperatives throughout the country has questioned the lack of transparency in Congress since they were not invited during the in igtial deliberations on the House Bill 8179 principally authored by Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap. “from the very beginning, they railroaded the process,”de Jesus said.
Yap’s bill however found an ally in the consumer group National Association of Electric Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore)
In a statement, Nasecore said the bill offers Filipinos an alternative choice for electricity and would pave the way for more competition in the power industry.
“The fact electric service is still so poor and costly, 17 years after EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), shows current measures have failed. Solar Para Sa Bayan should be thanked for fulfilling the intent of EPIRA, which consumers have long waited for. We hope this wakes up the power industry, and leads to more reforms that will benefit the people, instead of institutionalizing the inefficiencies of electric utilities,” Nasecore executive director Rafael Acebedo said.
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