Agusan consumers set March 16 referendum on R.A. 9520 converting power firms into real people’s coop

by Ben Serrano

    February 21, 2011


            BUTUAN CITY (PNA) - Consumers of local power firm Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative (ANECO) set March 16 as first day of series of referendum it plan to make for the implementation of some provisions of Republic Act 9520 converting or allowing electric cooperatives all over the country registered under CDA or Cooperative Development Authority.


            Under Section 4 Article 132 of Republic Act 9520 or The New Cooperative Code of the Philippines, which was signed in February last year, ECs that registered with the CDA aside from tax exemptions will also be entitled to "congressional allocations, grants, subsidies and other financial assistance for rural electrification which can be coursed through the Department of Energy, the Authority or local government units."


            Rule IV Section 9 of said law R.A. 9520 otherwise known as New Cooperative Code of 2008 sets procedures in the conduct of the referendum, it may be initiated by Board of Directors of electric coops and consumer members initiated


            ANECO Board of Directors headed by Board Chair Dioscoro Buco in a meeting sometime in June 2010 with leaders of the consumers’ group who wanted referendum, already expressed refusal to sponsor a referendum neither it will conduct information dissemination drive about R.A. 9520 particularly Electric Cooperatives wholly explained in Chapter 17 of said law.


            Before that meeting took place, ANECO General Manager Architect Horacio Santos in his letter dated March 15. 2010 to People’s Movement for Socio Economic Development, the consumers’ group calling for referendum said that converting electric cooperatives into real people’s cooperatives and registered it under CDA is only an option and therefore do not force power cooperatives all over the country to register with Cooperative Development Authority.


            Santos said the call for referendum much more information dissemination on R.A. 9520 entails expenses or funding as such Santos claimed he will inform, endorsing to National Electrification Administration (NEA) said proposed activities.


            Santos said once NEA will allow funding for holding referendum and information dissemination, “We will act on your call for referendum and information dissemination and ANECO will immediately comply” the letter addressed to Mr. Roberto Rosales, head of the convenor of Alliance for Consumer Ownership of ANECO”.


            Rosales, on the other hand, claimed Santos already informed him that ANECO will not conduct referendum neither it will hold consumers’ wide information and dissemination drive about R.A. 9520.


            Rosales in a live broadcast interview over local radio station here alleged ANECO is even planning to embark a massive “NO” vote for the referendum and is planning allegedly to release some P4-M funds to counter the consumers-led initiatives.


            Rosales alleged insiders among local radio station management here in Butuan City and some media outlets that ANECO is hiring radio commentators and reporters to campaign massively against consumers’ initiated referendum.


            ANECO already held press conference dubbed "Just tell the people the truth" for its “NO” campaign and explaining why the Board of Directors is against the consumers' call for referendum last February 18, 2011.


            PNA tried to reach ANECO for comment but to no avail.


            In an earlier interview with PNA, Santos who was hesitant at first to be interviewed and even did not allowed interview to be tape recorded claimed CDA do not have technical and financial capabilities like what NEA is now doing or functioning.


            “Running power firm is not just easy while CDA may have institutional capabilities but it may not have technical and financial capabilities to run an electric cooperative” Santos said.


            CDA Caraga regional director Manuela Ebarle Pelaez for her part told PNA that under R.A. 9520 it do not claimed electric coops registered with CDA will be run by CDA alone but by concerted government agencies concerned including National Electrification Administration (NEA) to attain sustainable development.


            Rosales who headed the consumers group calling for referendum told PNA the alliance having funding or not is determined to conduct a referendum saying it is consumers’ right to be informed and holding such referendum is consumers’ constitutional right.


            Rosales said he will consult lawyers whether ANECO’s using funds to go against consumers’ will is lawful or not.


            “The least ANECO must do is maybe sponsor a consumers’ forum or debate before the public to present both sides why they are for no vote not campaign against duly constituted law like R.A. 9520. Releasing funds to campaign against a congress approved law is maybe a Malversation of ANECO funds which are all actually consumers’ money”, Rosales conclude. (PNA/Ben Serrano)

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