Power firm, co-op sign deal to improve services in central Negros
BACOLOD CITY — The Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) and a private firm signed a joint venture agreement (JVA) on Saturday, June 3, to modernize and improve power distribution in its franchise area.
The JVA, however, needs the ratification of Ceneco member-consumers in a plebiscite set on June 24 and 25 and July 1 and 2 to become final.
The JVA was signed by Ceneco president Jojit Yap and Primelectric Holdings Inc. (PHI) president and chief executive officer Roel Castro at Scarborough Restaurant in this city.
The Ceneco franchise area covers Bacolod, Silay, Talisay, and Bago cities as well as Salvador Benedicto and Murcia towns in Negros Occidental.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Negros, however, denounced the decision of Ceneco to sign a JVA with PHI, calling it an “undemocratic maneuver” meant to privatize the power supply in central Negros.
Bayan-Negros said the announcement about the signing of the JVA was made public close to midnight on Friday, and only through the media, leaving consumers blindsided.
“Like thieves in the night, the board of directors and management of Ceneco have blindsided and betrayed the consumers with their devious schemes. Shame on them for blatantly neglecting the interest of the people they are supposed to serve,” said Noli Rosales, Bayan-Negros spokesperson.
Bayan Negros warned against the rushed and non-inclusive plebiscite, saying it is just “a mere formality, lacking genuine consultation and meaningful dialogue.”
“Supporting this partnership without weighing the long-term implications is deeply concerning. We implore these barangay officials to reflect on the wider ramifications and prioritize the collective interests of the community over immediate and personal gains,” Rosales said.
Castro of PMI called the signing of the JVA “very historic” because it is geared towards the delivery of better services to consumers.
In a meeting with barangay captains before the signing of the deal, Castro said they would invest an initial P2 billion in the joint venture for technical and staff improvement on top of paying the 70 percent value of Ceneco’s distribution assets.
He said the Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC), which is in the process of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, would reduce the systems loss of Ceneco, which is at P20 million a month, reduce the unscheduled brownouts, provide consumer-friendly services, and work to bring down power rates.
Ceneco acting general manager Arnel Lapore, who signed the JVA as a witness, said the cooperative has 210,000 members. They need the “yes votes” of 50 percent plus one in the plebiscite for the approval of the JVA.
The guidelines allow proxy voting.
The JVA said Ceneco saw fiscal challenges ahead due to its high systems’ losses and regulatory issues that may threaten its long term financial viability and ability to expand and modernize the distribution system in its franchise area to meet consumer requirements.
“Ceneco is in dire need of immediate financing for the implementation of critical capital expenditure projects which are needed to lower its systems’ losses and improve the reliability of its system,” the deal read.
PHI has signified its willingness to partner with Ceneco through the investment of needed financial resources and provision of technical expertise and experience required to expand and modernize the distribution system in its franchise area.
PHI and NEPC are affiliates of MORE Electric and Power Corp., a private distribution utility in Iloilo with proven financial and technical capabilities in the modernization and operation of distribution systems, the JVA said.
NEPC would pay for 70 percent of Ceneco’s distribution assets and the 30 percent balance would represent the capital contribution of Ceneco to the corporation, the JVA added.