Group to sue NEA, electric coop board over ‘missing’ P126-M collection

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notoalecoBy Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY (12June2013/PNA) – A multi-sectoral stakeholders group has threatened to sue the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the NEA-created Albay Power Cooperative (Aleco) interim board for the alleged ‘mishandling’ of the P126 million forcibly sourced from the Special Payment Agreement (SPA) the consumers had earlier rejected.

This developed after the Philippine Electric Market Corporation (PEMC) wrote the NEA-controlled Aleco that it not paid the PEMC any single centavo to reduce its principal obligation of close to P1.3 billion in electricity bills.

In a letter dated May 24 sent to the multi-sectoral stakeholders group and signed by PEMC president Melinda L. Ocampo, the PEMC said Aleco had been paying only the interest on its obligations.

The PEMC letter was in response to the multi-sectoral group’s query as to the amount of payments made by Aleco for its electricity obligation coming from SPA collections.

According to documents, the controversial SPA was hatched in February 2011 with a specific purpose of using the collection as payment for the P1.3 billion in electricity bills with the PEMC.

SPA is inserted in consumers’ monthly billings, equivalent to 10 percent.

It will expire in December 2014.

Ephraim De Vera, a programmer of Aleco and a member of the Aleco Union Employees, said the consumers-rejected SPA has totaled P126 million, quoting a NEA official.

The Aleco Employees Union and the multi-sectoral stakeholders group have also been protesting the NEA efforts to privatize Aleco.

The privatization plan, however, has been on hold since the Regional Trial Court issued a temporary restraining order.

RTC Judge Ignacio Almodovar Jr., meanwhile, said the TRO had lapsed on June 9 and the hearing for temporary injunction continues as the Aleco board also asked for the dismissal of the complaint.

The protesters said the NEA’s move to privatize Aleco on the basis of the resolution reached by the interim board was illegal since it is not the original board of directors elected by consumers.

In addition, the proposed privatization plan was rejected by the consumers during the Nov. 30, 2012 special general assembly, said lawyer Bartolome Rayco of the multi-sectoral group.

Aleco, however, has appealed since mid-part last year for the consumers to consider SPA as a voluntary payment to help the problematic cooperative settle its electricity bills with the spot market, issuing warnings that the cooperative has been under disconnections threat.

Aleco, according to Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, has a standing total debts of close to P4 billion.

The third biggest power cooperatives of more than 200,000 consumers but touted as among the 10 worst cooperatives was placed under NEA management control in February 2011 in what Salceda said was an effort to save Aleco from certain collapse.

The power cooperative has been under alternate management control between NEA and the consumers-elected Aleco board of directors during the past 30 years.

It has been suffering from an average 24-percent systems loss.

At least three interested buyers have joined a pre-bid conference for Aleco’s privatization — San Miguel Corp., Aboitiz Group, and the Lopez Group. (PNA)

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