Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, June 05, 2009

Mitos brings power co-ops feud to Congress

The “turf war” between the National Electrification Administration and Cooperative Development Authority over management control of thousands of electric cooperatives nationwide has reached Congress.

During a House committee hearing yesterday, Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay castigated NEA for refusing to give up management control of electric cooperatives that are now registered with the CDA, which is empowered by law to supervise them.

“Instead of interfering and wasting your time squabbling with the CDA on the day-to-day operations of electric cooperatives that decided to register with the CDA, NEA should instead concentrate on its primary task of providing technical expertise and funding to villages that are lacking electricity nationwide,” Magsaysay said at the hearing conducted by a House committee chaired by Apec Rep. Ernesto Pablo.

Magsaysay gave NEA administrator Edith Bueño a dressing down for meddling in the board composition of the Zambales Electrical Cooperative (Zameco)-II, which is now registered with the CDA as mandated by Republic Act 9520, also known as “The Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008.”

The law empowered CDA to supervise management of thousands of cooperatives nationwide.

“Why did you decide to extend the term of the interim board by another 180 days when you knew for a fact that Zameco II has already registered itself to the CDA and the enabling law has become effective by Feb. 19, 2009?” Magsaysay asked Bueño.

Republic Act 9520 is expected to strengthen the thousands of cooperatives in the country and enable the system to contribute to the country’s economic growth, according to Magsaysay.

Bueño said there was a “clamor” from Zameco II’s stockholders that prompted her to intervene and prevent a possible disruption of power service in the area should the protests worsen.

“Did you verify that the rallyists were really stock members of Zameco II?” Magsaysay asked. Bueño could not answer.

The congressional inquiry was prompted by Magsaysay’s filing of House Resolution 1098, which sought to investigate the alleged abuse of authority of and interference by the NEA on electric cooperatives registered with the CDA.

Magsaysay said she filed the resolution after receiving complaints from electrical cooperatives in Zambales, Bataan and Batangas alleging that NEA is interfering with their management operations.

“Some of the perceived offenses being raised by the electrical cooperatives include brazen appointments of pro-NEA board members in the cooperatives board and refusal of the agency to release their cash incentive,” Magsaysay said.

Also during the hearing, CDA oversight administrator retired Judge Fulgencio Vicario said the CDA could assume supervision of all 17 electric cooperatives that decided to leave NEA and switch on its side by July 1.

Electric cooperatives decided to register with the CDA after the latter assured them that no taxes would be levied against them as part of their incentives.

But the electric cooperatives would have to wait for another three months while the system is being fine-tuned, Vicario said.

Magsaysay then asked Bueño whether NEA will again interfere in the choosing of Zameco II’s board once the interim board expires in September.

“No your honor, it is not in NEA’s business to stay in places we are no longer wanted,” Bueño said. NEA last May extended the term of Zameco II’s interim board by another 180 days.

Bueño also assured lawmakers and the CDA that her agency will do its best in expediting the release of funds needed by electrical cooperatives’ various electrification projects.

“So those promises are a scout honor’s?” asked Magsaysay, to which Bueno replied in the affirmative.

For his part, Apec Rep. Edgar Valdez also advised NEA and CDA administrators to sit down and settle their differences.

Bueño and Vicario agreed that it was quite clear that all cooperatives in the country are effectively under CDA control, except in cases when these cooperatives have outstanding loans with the NEA.

Valdez also discouraged the two agencies from suing each other since the court battle is “time consuming and [costly] for all concerned.” By Christine Herrera - Manila Standard Today

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