LEGAZPI CITY: While San Miguel Corp. won the bid last December to operate the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) in December, striking employees and supporters from consumers groups continue to block the company from operating it.
Their continued protests has adversely affected 200,000 consumers of Aleco, who are now complaining of undelivered bills since five months ago and they fear they being unable to pay for them when the bills reach their homes.
Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay appealed to the striking union employees and supporters to give the privatization a chance and let SMC rehabilitate and manage the power distribution cooperative, the first to be privatized.
Salceda earlier downplayed the resistance against Aleco’s and its takeover by SMC as affecting investor interest in the province adding that privatization is the real answer to the consumers’ woe and investors’ faith.
Protesters have prevented SMC from taking over Aleco early this month by “physically” taking its control through interim board members they assigned which were approved by a recent consumers’ assembly.
San Miguel representatives began operating it in December 2013 with the formal management change supposed to take place on January 7.
Officials of the Aleco Labor Employees Organization (ALEO) and the Aleco Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO) had earlier declared SMC contract for the initial 25-years to manage Aleco as concessionaire “null and void” saying it did not have the approval from member consumers.
As this developed, consumers complained they are hounded by undelivered monthly billings for almost five months now since Aleco employees went on strike in protest of the National Electrification Administration reported manipulation to privatize Aleco and had it awarded to SMC.
SMC was the lone bidder that won the Aleco concession contract after four other giant firms who joined the pre-qualification withdrew during the pre-bid conference.
Salceda said he believes Aleco’s service would greatly improve under San Miguel.
AMSSO and ALEO officials, however, said striking regular employees had returned to work second week of January when they received a return-to-work order from the Department of Labor.
Ephraim de Vera of ALEO said the consumers’ woe about the non delivery of their monthly billings was due to the failure of SMC-assigned meter readers to perform their duties because of the legal conflict after the hiring of a collection agency was also questioned by ALEO and AMSSO.
Generoso Butial said fellow consumers could not pay their electric bills because of the absence of the Aleco issued bills and designated collection centers. He said he had requested Aleco since last year to transfer his electric connection to his nearby new residence but was told by an Aleco employee that no one would attend to his request.
San Miguel has allocated some P350 million for employees who would retire and those to be separated as the new concessionaire is cleaning the ranks of scores of undesirable employees and officials that have allegedly contributed heavily to the decay of Aleco now indebted to the tune of close to P4 billion.