• Albay blackout used to justify privatization of electric cooperative

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    The 29-hour blackout in Albay province is a move to justify the planned privatization of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), an administration lawmaker said Friday.

    Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello was referring to the outage in the province which stemmed from Aleco’s P4-billion debt to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

    Aleco’s debt prompted the  NGCP to disconnect Aleco from the grid on Tuesday.

    Bello said the National Electrification Administration (NEA) has been pushing for Aleco’s privatization to stem its financial bleeding.

    The move, however, is seen as detrimental to the cooperative’s employees and the consumers.

    “When the entire province experienced power disconnection, they pinned the blame on the electric cooperative and its consumers. Now that reformers inside the electric cooperative, primarily from the union, are trying to turn it around by recommending progressive and pro-people plans, they sabotaged such efforts with this blackout,” Bello said.

    Under the government’s private sector participation (PSP) scheme, private entities can buy into Aleco, in the process severely limiting the decision-making powers of the consumers.

    “The people of Albay must see beyond the blackout and make sense of the real agenda behind the blackout. Truth is, the blackout is simply a ploy to force the people of Albay to accept privatization,” Bello added.

    Further, Bello criticized NEA for its refusal to respect and accept the electric cooperative’s general assembly and its employees’ union decision to reject the proposal to privatize the electric cooperative.

    The NGCP reconnected Aleco to the grid 5 pm on Wednesday after the cooperative partially fulfilled the conditions set by the Department of Energy. Among the conditions are to cut off service to the top 100 delinquent customers, pay off current liabilities amounting to P59 million and implement a rehabilitation plan to pay off its almost P4 billion debt to government corporations and energy providers.

    Aleco was also able to raise P40 million to pay for the current account while the Legazpi City local government promised to shoulder the balance.

    LLANESCA T. PANTI

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