28 AUGUST 2012
DOE wants grassroots politics out of electric coops
The Department of Energy hopes to keep the power sector politics-free as it pushes for amendments to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) charter which will bring about reforms to electric cooperatives.
Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the NEA Reform Bill (House Bill 6214) will hopefully remove unnecessary political interference from the operations of electric cooperatives. He called political interference “the biggest single problem” hindering the ECs’ sustainability.
The bill, according to Almendras, is already in the period of final reading and interpellation.
“I have always said it will really be a lot healthier and sustainable if you keep politics away from the power sector,” Almendras said.
“And I don’t mean politics in the upper level, (I mean) politics at the grassroots level, politics at the ECs (electric cooperatives). They are the biggest single problem we have in making ECs sustainable,” he noted.
The proposed amendment to the NEA charter seeks to ensure that electric cooperatives are more efficient and effective by giving the NEA adequate powers to supervise and regulate electric cooperatives as public distribution utilities.
House Bill 6214 also seeks to strengthen NEA’s ability to fulfill its mandate of total rural electrification through the electric cooperatives.
“The low-lying fruit is restructural reform (on) how we will administer ECs and that’s the NEA Reform Bill. That’s why we have a new NEA charter bill, we want to change the charter of NEA because we want to transform it into an entity like what Central Bank is to a bank,” Almendras noted.
The energy chief said he is hoping that the bill will be passed despite some efforts to block it.
“If you want to fix the cooperatives, there are many who interfere because they are protecting someone. Keep power away from politics, the minute you allow politics to start interfering with the distribution utilities, there goes your efficiencies,” he said.
“If it doesn’t (pass), I’m going to say don’t blame us. We told you this is the solution, we told you this is the way to go. If you’re not going to let it happen, be accountable, be responsible for the future implications,” he added.
NEA is the government-owned and controlled corporation, attached to the DOE, which provides financial, institutional and technical assistance to electric distribution utilities to make them highly competitive in delivering quality service.
As of 2011, per NEA data, that there were about 119 electric cooperatives nationwide.
Read article source in Malaya Business Insight