NEA files petition for Aleco power rate hike

LEGAZPI CITY— Unknown to the 250,000 power consumers in Albay, the National Electric Administration (NEA) has filed for a power rate increase in anticipation of the final takeover of the San Miguel Corp. (SMC) of the operation of its recently acquired bankrupt electric cooperative of the province, according to documents obtained by the Philippine News Agency.
Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, who was among the strong and leading proponents for the Albay Electric Cooperative’s (Aleco) privatization, could not be contacted for comment even as consumers and multi-sectoral stakeholders’ organizations expressed their grave concern and protests, claiming “we were cheated and fooled by the NEA.”
Salceda had been quoted in the past that under SMC, an increase in power rate was remote until a reasonable period of time.
On Aug. 21, the troubled Aleco, which is saddled by close to P4 billion debts, was finally awarded to SMC after it won as the lone bidder to be Aleco’s concessionaire for 50 years.
Three other bidders – the Manila Electric Corp., Lopez group and Aboitiz -- opted to back out at the last minute during the Aug. 21 scheduled bidding here, saying some of the items of the Terms of Reference were not acceptable.
What surprised certain sectors was that Aleco, on NEA’s order, has filed a petition with the Energy Regulatory Commission for an upward rate adjustment, a manipulative move hidden from the noses of the public, said Ephraim De Vera, an official of the Aleco Employees Organization (Aleo).
De Vera quoted NEA-Aleco project supervisor Veronica Briones as saying that the petition for rate readjustment was hatched as early as June, contrary to her often reiterated pronouncements during the more-than-a-year deliberation over the privatization move that power rate increase was out of the issue.
According to documents, an alleged public hearing and consultation for the proposed rate increase was conducted by the NEA but hidden from the public last Nov. 28 at the Aleco office with only seven consumer-members attending against the 250,000 members.
Santiago appealed to the Aleco board and NEA officials to keep their word of honor and sought consumers’ vigilance now that Aleco is under a concessionaire.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (Albay, 3rd district) said he is not aware of the rate hike petition.
Gonzalez was among the three Albay lawmakers who joined the efforts to privatize Aleco, the third biggest cooperative and among the 10 worse for alleged graft and corruption.
Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi cried foul, saying he was never aware of the proposed rate increase.
Rosal was among the major players who pushed for the Aleco privatization.
The documents said a certain Atty. Alfredo Non from the ERC attended and presided over the farce public hearing where he announced and justified that all the pre-requisites had been allegedly provided by NEA to conduct the public hearing. (PNA)

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