Friday, November 23, 2012

Nagkaisa! opposes passage of Abad bill

The country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa! warned the members of electric cooperatives (EC) of the dangers posed by the Abad bill or House Bill 6214 that passed the second reading yesterday. The bill, principally authored by energy committee Chair Dina Abad, seeks extra powers for the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and one of the convenors of Nagkaisa! said, the Abad bill is truly a bad and dangerous bill since it gives NEA ‘step-in rights’ or extra powers to impose its will against a particular EC. In essence, HB 6214 provides NEA the dictatorial powers to:

(1) take-over the management and operation of the EC;

(2) appoint or assign third persons to the Board, or;

(3) create a management team whose members possess the qualifications and experience suited for the job

Fortaleza explained that the bill also expands and strengthens NEA’s power to fire general managers, directors, and even employees of both the NEA and CDA-registered electric cooperatives — rights that were already provided under PD269 and PD1645.

Nagkaisa! maintains the position that the logical end to NEA’s mission since it was mandated 40 years ago to pursue the total electrification the country is to leave a legacy of being able to empower and democratize the ownership and control of the country’s 119 electric cooperatives.

“Unfortunately HB6214 is a push toward the opposite direction. It will create a Super NEA that is eventually more powerful than the EC’s highest policy making body, the general assembly,” said Fortaleza.

Louie Corral of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) likewise argued that NEA already has too much power as the registration agency, the bank, and the implementor of coop projects.

“NEA is basically the SEC, the Land Bank, and the DPWH rolled into one for all coops. This over-concentration of powers is a formula for conflict of interest and abuse of powers. The bill adds to these powers by introducing the concept of ‘step-in rights’ that practically would lead to the total emasculation of the coop’s general assembly and the marginalization of the unions in these coops,” explained Corral who is also a Nagkaisa! convenor.

The clear intent of the bill, he added, “Is for NEA to displace the role of the true owners of the coop – the 9 million consumer households — and to supplant them with corporatization and eventual takeover of the coops by the Voltage 5 which is allowed under EPIRA.”

Labor groups under Nagkaisa! such as the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) have affiliate unions in electric cooperatives. All these groups are working for the democratization of control and ownership of electric cooperatives.

Another Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata, the Secretary General of APL, called on consumers to reject the bill, warning that once enacted, EPIRA’s privatization agenda “freely steps into the doors of the consumer-owned electric cooperatives.”

He asserted that there are other ways in solving the problems of distressed ECs outside of the EPIRA frame as shown by the coop-to-coop cooperation model successfully worked out by the union and the consumers of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO).

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