By Elmer James Bandol
LEGAZPI CITY, 22Aug2013 (BicolToday.com) – An attempt by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay (SPA), to publicly inform and educate consumers on the sad state of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) and how their participation would fair in a referendum, proved futile when Board Member Ireneo “Dodo” Sales locked and finished all discussions that went awry.
“Bidding was done already, referendum whether privatization or coop to coop solutions is useless. The sole bidder is San Miguel Power of which the governor has already expressed his support. If we will continue, this will expose us to damages, Tapos na kita! Consumatum est” said Sales explaining that “it is finished” after he stood up on the floor when discussions went wrong during the 8th regular session held on Tuesday.
At this juncture, Board Member (BM), Niel. L. Montallana’s proposal that the Sangguning Committee of the Whole must conduct public hearing on Aug. 28, 2013, was junked. This is the second motion by Montallana who first moved for a “public debate” about the two solutions posed for Albay’s ailing electric cooperative, but the SPA failed to come up a unanimous decision.
On Aug. 7, 2013, the National Electrification Administration (NEA), which had been in control of ALECO for the past decade, has opened the cooperative to interested bidders despite strong opposition from consumers. In the opening of bids held at the convention hall of a three-star hotel in Legazpi City, San Miguel Power came out as sole bidder. Other supposedly bidders questioned the legality of NEA’s move.
Bids and Awards Committee chair, Engr. Marry Rose Naparam has announced to the public the time frame that on Aug. 8 to 20, the evaluation of bid while on Aug 21, 2013, the announcement of winner. She explained that from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6, 2013, a 15-day period for information and education campaign before referendum on Sept. 7, 2013. Businessman Benjie Santiago commented that the information drive for consumers should have been done before bidding out ALECO.”This is just NEA’s ploy to privatize the cooperative” he added.
The same announcement was made by Energy Sec. Carlos Jericho I. Petilla during a dialog with selected ALECO stakeholders held on Aug. 15, 2013, who explained that the sole power utility in the province has long been mismanaged, however, he refused to answer on accountability for its mismanagement by saying: “This time, no finger-pointing”.
Result of Petilla’s visit was reported by BM Rhederick Riva, during the SPA’s 8th regular session, saying that the invites for said dialog were members of the judiciary, chamber of commerce, labor unions and concerned consumers whereby ALECO’s situation was explained and is buried under P3.6 millon debts to power suppliers.
Riva, as chair committee on power and energy, told his colleagues that the management take-over of the cash-strap power cooperative will be done either by a private concessionaire or by Benguet Electric Cooperative with assistance from Association of Electric Cooperatives. However, he further explained, ALECO’s assets will be retained. He appealed to local chapter of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KPB) to help in the information campaign as consumers demand good management.
Another BM Richard Ben Imperial, in his support for Riva’s appeal, he suggested to task the Public Information Officer to support the information dissemination for wide participation of consumers regarding the upcoming referendum. At this instance, Vice-Gov. Harold O. Imperial, presiding officer commented that the confirmation of the PIO is still pending at the Sanggunian, while BM Ralph A. Andes recommended the use of the “Media Bureau” and radio programs of the governor for Riva’s intention.
BM Oscar Bobby Cristobal expressed his stand that the information to be discussed publicly regarding solutions to ALECO should not be biased so that the public shall be free to decide their choice.
Meanwhile in the middle of discussions, Montallana’s proposal to hold “public debate” for ALECO’S two solutions was put across the speaker and Riva sensing that is was an insinuation responded “dai na pag purok-purokon” which later Montallana moved to strike off the record the same words but the latter objected. Montallana’s motion was withdrawn.
To cool off the on-going heated discussions, BM Jose Marino Madrilejos proposed to Riva and Montallana to make a compromise and added: “This is the most unproductive session that we ever had”. Then, the presiding officer banged his gavel for a three-minute recess. When session resumed, Sales, who is a lawyer, stood up for other matters to be discussed, however, his statement zeroed in on ALECO which closed all the intentions of the two opposing legislators.