DOE told: Expose politicians ‘protecting’ inept power co-ops | Inquirer News

DOE told: Expose politicians ‘protecting’ inept power co-ops

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
05:44 AM August 11, 2022
Raffy Tulfo. STORY: DOE told: Expose politicians ‘protecting’ inept power co-ops

Sen. Raffy Tulfo (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — It’s time for the Department of Energy (DOE) to uncover certain politicians acting as “protectors” of inept or predatory electric cooperatives, and who leave regulators helpless to act on consumer complaints, Sen. Raffy Tulfo said on Tuesday.

At a hearing of the Senate energy committee chaired by Tulfo, the senator asked Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla to submit a report on local politicians or their relatives who are allegedly exercising control over power cooperatives in various parts of the country.

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“These politicians have become the main headache for our consumers because whenever they lodge complaints against their electric cooperatives, their concerns are not attended to because their protectors are often the high-ranking officials in their provinces,” he said.

Complaints ignored

Lotilla and other DOE officials faced senators for a briefing on the country’s power outlook and the agency’s upcoming programs, in line with the legislative agenda laid out by President Marcos in his State of the Nation Address last month.

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Tulfo took the opportunity to appeal personally to Lotilla to identify the politicians who had become protectors of electric cooperatives. He cited accounts from consumers saying their complaints about frequent brownouts and high power rates were being ignored.

Talking it over

“So please tell (the committee) who these politicians are, and we will try to talk it over with them, investigate their practices in aid of legislation and find out if this is something that has to be stopped,” Tulfo told Lotilla.

The senator also appealed to the DOE to “do something” about the complaints of frequent brownouts in various areas across the country, as he expressed dismay at how electric cooperatives had supposedly been preying on their hapless customers.

“Our people are getting fed up with the frequent brownouts, and, adding insult to injury, they are being charged high electricity rates, and when they fail to settle their bill, their lines immediately get disconnected,” he said.

Some of the complaints Tulfo said he received involved power outages hurting small businesses where appliances and other equipment would bog down due to an unstable power supply.

Online classes

Students who attend online classes are also adversely affected by brownouts, Tulfo said.

“I assure you that I will be one chairperson who will be so pushy about our demands. This early, I will apologize to our resource persons because you will hear it from me once I see that, despite our appeals, our people are still not getting the attention they deserve,” he said.

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Crisis in Oriental Mindoro

Also at Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked the DOE to summon independent power producers (IPPs) and concerned government agencies on the “worsening” power crisis in Oriental Mindoro.

“Aside from Ormeco (Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative), I recommend to the committee that all IPPs with contractual obligations with it be made to participate in the upcoming inquiry. Let’s listen to each of the parties,” she said.

Ormeco, which services the franchise area of the province, has been in a hot spot due to mounting complaints about power outages.

Citing news reports, Hontiveros said one of the factors behind the power crisis in the province was the reported inability of Power One Corp. to perform its legal obligation to deliver an hourly supply of 9 megawatts to Ormeco.

“Who should really be answerable for this mess? This situation should not put consumers between two opposing forces,” she said.

Hontiveros described as “implausible” Ormeco’s explanation that the outages were caused by the low production of renewable energy, saying the issue should have been anticipated by the management.

NEA interference

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, the committee vice chair, also urged the DOE to explain in future hearings the alleged interference by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) in the selection of managers of electric cooperatives, despite the autonomy it enjoys under the law.

He drew attention to the controversy hounding the selection of the general manager of Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc., after the NEA appointed a manager and rejected the choice of its board of directors.

“We don’t rock the boat when there is no problem. It will set a precedent to all well-managed cooperatives, and NEA will just come in if ever the cooperative is reeling and not performing,” he said.

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TAGS: Department of Energy, DoE, power cooperatives, Raffy Tulfo
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