Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Labor groups to Senate: Defer passage of NEA Reform Bill

With barely 4 session-days left, workers belonging to labor coalition Nagakaisa! trooped to the Senate this afternoon to urge feuding senators to defer passage of Senate Bill 3389 or the National Electrification Reform Bill authored by Sen. Serge Osmena on grounds that the proposed “step-in rights” to be granted to NEA is anti-democratic and anti-labor.

Nagkaisa! members like the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines have organized unions in the country’s 119 electric cooperatives.

Josua Mata, one of Nagkaisa! convenors and the secretary general of APL denounced the Senate Bill as a Draconian measure as it grants NEA martial law powers to take over ailing ECs, replace the general manager, the entire board and even employees, appoint third persons in the board or a management team, and convert cooperatives into stock corporations. This measure, he said, usurped the powers of the General Assembly – the highest policy-making body of the coop to decide on what options to take to make their utilities financially-viable and democratically-managed.

Leody De Guzman, Chairperson of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilino (BMP) said that, “NEA Bill is a bad bill that clearly tramples on our constitutional right to security of tenure and severely undermines our fundamental right to self-organize”.

Louie Corral of TUCP said a close reading of the measure shows that it seeks to clothe the NEA with the same draconian powers, which for the past thirty years it has exercised over the country’s electric cooperatives.

Section 4-B of SB 3389 states that the NEA shall have immediately step-in and take over from its Board the operations of any ailing electric cooperative, within a reasonable period after take-over, the NEA may convert the ailing cooperative to either a stock cooperative registered with the CDA or a stock corporation registered with the SEC.

“This is privatization in the guise of reform,” said Mata, adding that with 90 percent of generation already privatized under EPIRA, big private powers now set their eyes on 9 million households connected with electric cooperatives. Meralco has 5.5 million customer-base.

PM chair Renato Magtubo echoed the same as the both the House and Senate versions aim at making electric cooperatives EPIRA-compliant. “Reform NEA is nothing but a privatization agenda of Osmena in the coops as explicitly provided under his bill,” said Magtubo.

Osmena was also the author of EPIRA which for the past 10 years resulted to escalating rates and diminishing supply.

NAGKAISA believes that any moves to amend the charter of NEA should first be informed by a comprehensive assessment of what really went wrong in the electric cooperative sector and how the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or EPIRA has exacerbated the situation.