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Napocor takes over Albay power co-op

By Ephraim Aguilar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:41:00 07/18/2008

Filed Under: Electricity Production & Distribution, Regional authorities

LEGAZPI CITY ? The National Power Corp. has taken over the operations and management of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) following the cooperative?s failure to pay a P1.4-billion debt to the state-owned power agency.

Napocor officials said the move was made to rescue the Aleco from bankruptcy.

Napocor and Aleco officials Thursday signed an operation and management contract that allowed the suspension of Aleco?s debts, gave it a chance to rehabilitate and provided a transition period for privatization.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said an operation and management contract with the Napocor was the most viable and efficient solution to Aleco?s financial woes.

?Under the contract, there will be no disconnection. It will offer Aleco access to the financial resources and management expertise of the Napocor,? Salceda said.

He said while the debt payment would be suspended under the one-year contract, the Napocor would also enforce a rehabilitation plan for the ailing power cooperative.

The plan seeks to ensure reliability of supply and the lowering of power rates.

Salceda said the Napocor sought to reduce systems loss, or electricity lost to pilferage and defective equipment, by 14 percent and to modernize its 30-year-old power distribution facilities.

The governor said once Aleco becomes financially viable, private investors would be interested to buy it.

He said though privatization was a long way to go, it would make debt payments easier and allow Aleco to earn and reduce technical losses.

Also, Salceda said he was concerned with Albay?s reputation, so he proposed that a partnership be sealed in the contract between the Napocor and Aleco.

?Rather than a creditor-initiated court proceeding against Aleco, there is an orderly and systematic way of fixing the problem and that is through partnership,? Salceda said.

?Cooperation is better than adversarial relations,? he added.

Bicol militants, however, opposed the takeover.

Tessa Lopez, Bicol spokeperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said it was part of President Macapagal-Arroyo?s policy on the privatization of the power sector.

?The thrust of this policy is to first control the electric cooperatives through takeovers then, eventually, to sell them to the private sector. It is also very dubious that President Arroyo?s relatives are in the energy sector,? Lopez said.

She added that it seemed the Arroyo family was planning to carve a niche in the power sector with Aleco as its ?test case.?

?What is needed is for Aleco to be made a genuine cooperative,? Lopez added.



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