By TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY— The Court of Appeals has granted the National Electrification Administration (NEA) the control over the beleaguered Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (DANECO), replacing the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). A referendum by member consumers on January next year would decide whether NEA’s control stays.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla made the surprise announcement in a packed meeting attended by NEA and CDA officers and local government officials from both Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte provinces Friday afternoon at Waterfront Hotel.
CDA board chair Abenir Labja slammed the decision as a “conspiracy” to dismantle electric cooperatives in favor of “big power players like Aboitiz, Pangilinan and San Miguel.”
“Luoy ang mga tawo ani ba (the people will be affected with this),” Labja said.
Labja said that once NEA takes over DANECO, it would merely facilitate the entry of Aboitiz Power and privatize the cooperative.
Aboitiz Power, a holding company of the Aboitiz Group, is the current private electric provider of Davao City, Panabo City, and the towns of Carmen, Sto. Tomas and Braulio E. Dujali. Aboitiz is also the owner of Therma Marine, Inc., one of the energy suppliers of Daneco.
In a report by rappler.com, while San Miguel Corp. is the biggest power producer in the country, accounting for 22% of the total sold to the power grid, in terms of capacity of all existing power, the Aboitiz group still rules as the biggest power producer in the country based on “installed” capacity of 3,426 MW, accounting for 21% of total power sold to the grid.
Rodel Arquiza, spokesperson of the Save DANECO Movement condemned the Court decision saying, in a text message to Davao Today that with “NEA controlling the cooperative, they will use all resources to ensure that they will win the referendum, even using the collection from us consumer members. The consumers are at the losing end (here).”
DANECO under the CDA Board has 38,460 consumers, higher than the faction identified with the NEA because, Arquiza pointed out, the former charges lower rates.
Petilla said there are no talks of privatization coming from NEA.
The NEA is an entity created through Republic Act 10531 to step-in and take over an electric cooperative that is considered to be ailing. The CDA bolted out from DANECO and got majority votes in a May 2012 referendum by a margin of 48,000 votes.
Labja said with CDA’s management over DANECO–its “cooperativism,” consumers got to help DANECO sustain its power by contributing as much as P 700 million.
Sec. Petilla admitted holding next year’s referendum was a compromise decision, saying “(I)f CDA will yield to the (court decision), NEA will have control of DANECO until the referendum (on January).”
CDA wanted the referendum to take place earlier, on October this year, but the energy secretary refused, saying it would coincide with the barangay elections and politics might influence the referendum.
“What I’m more concerned,” said Petilla, “is that you have a 500 million pesos system loss and you add another 100 million every month if you have two groups continuing to manage DANECO. We don’t want to come to a point when your power supply will be cut off just like what happened in Albay.”
A system loss as defined by the blog hitechtabai “is an operational cost in the power generation that is passed on to the consumers at a rate determined by the Energy Regulatory Commission every year and collected by the power utility companies in its monthly bill to the consumers.”
Petilla observed though as per DANECO records, it is operating well. “But with two administrations both collecting from consumers, that is a problem.”
Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario asked both CDA and NEA to make financial audit to determine the cash status of DANECO that could sustain the payment of loss.
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy said that though he sides with CDA, but with this compromise, “there should be sacrifice to get everyone together to pay these debts.”
The energy secretary said “DANECO ultimately belongs to the people.”
But for Labja, this did not happen as the CDA lost even if the majority of DANECO consumers voted for them.
Other local officials present in the meeting were Comval vice governor Manuel Zamora, Comval representatives Maricar Apsay and Rommel Amatong, Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo, mayors and officials from both Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. (Tyrone A.Velez/davaotoday.com)Aboitiz, DANECO, privatization