Groups question Aleco management option referendum

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By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, 19Sept2013 – Various groups led by the Aleco Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO) have questioned the result of the referendum held on September 14 where the private-sector-participation (PSP) option for the management of the debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) won.

With a vote of 5,506 as against the 3,491 votes for coop-to-coop scheme, the PSP won — giving the San Miguel Corp., through its SMC Global Power Holding Corp., the right to control the management of the Aleco.

The AMSSO was for the cooperative-to-cooperative operation, with the Benguet Electric Cooperative as the willing partner.

AMSSO officials claimed that the Nation Electrification Administration and its cohorts promoting the privatization used money and all strategies to win the privatization through the referendum where consumer-members allegedly were paid the amount of P50 to vote plus free transportation to and from the voting center.

They also alleged that barangay executives were given P20,000 to assist in blocking to vote those united against the privatization.

They added that the low turnout of member-consumers who vote was a “referendum failure” and cannot be considered a valid action to consider privatization as the consumers’ choice.

Joining AMSSO in rejecting the referendum results are the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Bayan-Bicol, Karapatan-Bicol and the Aleco Employees Union.

AMSSO president, lawyer Bartolome Rayco, said they filed an official protest against the referendum result with the NEA on Wednesday.

Aleco board member Magin del Rosario said the SMC has signified intention to takeover Aleco anytime before the end of this month.

SMC was the lone bidder for Aleco during the Aug. 7 bidding, after three other bidders – Aboitiz Power, Lopez Power Holdings and Meralco — backed out in the last minute.

On August 21, NEA-Aleco project supervisor Veronica Briones announced that Aleco’s management control had been awarded to SMC as the winning bidder.

The NEA-Aleco Terms of Reference for bidders said the concessionaire of Aleco will assume its huge debts of close to P4 billion, according to Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, one of the leading movers for Aleco’s privatization.

With the winning of the PSP option, SMCGPHC will run the cooperative as a private corporation guided by its technical bid accepted by the interim board.

The SMCGPHC technical bid provides, among others, that as sole and exclusive agent or concessionaire of Aleco, it will act on matters such as “applications for increase in tariff with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), provided the Concessionaire shall only collect such tariffs that ERC may approve.”

On the fate of the existing operations and maintenance personnel of the cooperative, the bid says that Aleco shall indemnify, defend and hold the concessionaire, its directors, officers and employees free and harmless from any claim or action brought by the employees by reason of their separation from employment.

He said that under SMC, Albay is assured of the best power service. (PNA)

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