Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA), the organization of 121 electric cooperatives operating nationwide, denounces the hasty passage of House Bill 10554 both in the Committee on Legislative Franchises and during the Second Reading of the bill during the House of Representatives' Regular Session on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
”The Committee on Legislative Franchise approved the legislative measure without even considering an in-depth deliberation of then-House Bill 9976 now substituted by House Bill 10554. While NORDECO was given the chance to make a presentation, the proponent did not address the concerns raised,“ PHILRECA released in a statement.
PHILRECA added that the justifications being used to implement the takeover of NORDECO's operation and franchise area by Davao Light and Power Company were all debunked by the presentation made by Northern Davao Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NORDECO) management, and yet, the legislators dismissed these arguments.
”PHILRECA and NORDECO submitted our position papers addressing and debunking every point mentioned in the bill's Explanatory Note but these were not even discussed. They simply insisted that the LGU officials of the franchise area being considered have already spoken – which does not matter because as a cooperative, the voice that we should listen to are those of the member-owner-consumers, not of the politicians',“ added PHILRECA.
According to the statement, PHILRECA is not questioning the legitimacy – for now – of the approved LGU resolutions that they used to justify the bill's passage and legitimacy. ”However, contrary to those approved resolutions of LGUs, ninety-four thousand seven hundred fifty-five (94,755) verified bonafide member-consumer-owners of NORDECO, Inc. have already signed a MANIFESTO registering their resounding support to the coop and objected to the takeover of NORDECO by private-for-profit Davao Light,“ explained further by PHILRECA.
”The bill has been railroaded. During the Committee's first and only deliberation, the Department of Energy, National Electrification Administration, and the Energy Regulatory Commission have yet to submit their official position papers, and yet, the measure was approved together with a committee report that was not prepared yet in the first place. If that is not railroading, then, we don't know what is,“ stated PHILRECA.
A comparison of House Bill 9978 and the substitute bill HB 10554 would reveal a significant difference in content. House Bill 9978 is a 6-page application for a franchise, while House Bill 10554 is a 3-page amendment of Davao Light's one-year-old franchise.
”The Committee might have approved the legislative measure without a majority of the members having a copy of the actual legislative measure they are voting on because the manifestation for an amendment in title of the bill – only the title – was made right about when they are voting for the approval of the bill. During the short deliberation, the Committee was referring to the contents of HB 9978, which is significantly different from the substituted bill. It might even be safer to assume that the Committee Report was approved without the members having access to it yet,“ added PHILRECA.
During the interpellation of the House Bill in the plenary, AKO Bicol Partylist Representative Alfredo A. Garbin admitted that there was no investigation nor any prior deliberation on the performance of NORDECO, the electric cooperative who is the franchise holder in the areas where Davao Light would like to expand its franchise to.
Some of the salient points of PHILRECA's position paper include the following: addressing the accusations against NORDECO, which is being used as justification on its takeover by Davao Light; the significant improvements of NORDECO since the constitution of Task Force Duterte Northern Davao Power (TFD-NDP) to help the coop regain and stabilize its operations; NORDECO's compliance to power reliability parameters of the National Electrification Administration and Energy Regulatory Commission; the overwhelming support of NORDECO's member-consumer-owners to the coop; rate impact of the legislative measure to both franchise areas if the measure will be approved; and constitutional ”infirmities“ of the House Bill. Member-electric cooperatives of PHILRECA from the islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao also conducted a Black Friday Protest denouncing the takeover of NORDECO (#UnitedWeStandWeStandUnitedforNORDECO on Facebook) and other cooperatives by private-for-profit entities like Davao Light and Power Company