Monday, January 20, 2014

Sufficient, affordable, and stable electricity are the people’s right

by Vince Casilihan
“A government feeding its people to the sharks” is how Vince Casilihan of Karapatan-Bicol describes the object of the people’s fury that effected the repossession of Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) by member-consumers last January 6.  “It was therefore just for Albayanos to retake the electric cooperative from the voracious San Miguel Energy Corporation and fight the anti-poor case of ALECO’s privatization,” he said.

The human rights alliance condemns in particular the incursion by the Albay PNP, reinforced by security forces of San Miguel Energy Corporation, on the demarcation between strikers and state forces. Hurt were negotiators Fr. Alex Bercasio of the Redemptorist Congregation and Atty. Donna Escio of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, when the two were shoved by police and security forces and pinned to the gate during the foray.

The Albay PNP and SMEC security forces encroached upon the prohibited area, prompting a struggle between the two parties, when member-consumers under the banner of ALECO Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders’ Organization (AMSSO) demanded the pull-out of SMEC personnel from the ALECO office as this violates an agreement between the two sides. Also required by AMSSO is the furnishing of a copy of the Concession Agreement between ALECO and SMEC, believed to be anomalous.

Even so, Casilihan expresses Karapatan-Bicol’s disdain on the government’s wanton sale of the people’s interests into the hands of profit-driven capitalists. “An industry so vital to national industrialization as energy should be operated by the state and not be left in the hands of big capitalists who only have income-generation as their primary motive,” Casilihan explicates. “The ALECO problem only exposes further that Noynoy Aquino’s government is not at all taking into account the people’s welfare. Instead, he immorally serves up ALECO as a bonanza to his uncle Danding,” furthers Casilihan.

Casilihan underscores such government neglect in the rejection by local leaders of the widely-supported and feasible Cooperative-to-Cooperative scheme.  Karapatan-Bicol forthrightly demands Albay’s governor, congressmen and mayors, as well as Legazpi City’s bishop, to recoup from their abandonment and betrayal of the people of Albay.

Proponents of privatization have long advanced the purported benefit of lower prices as to be brought about by competition. To this, Casilihan quickly retorts: “Case upon case of government sale of public assets have repeatedly slapped the shame of deceit onto the mouths of privatization’s fanatics. As in the case of Aleco, foreboding privatization already spells high and unjust electricity prices.” Casilihan likewise chastises the 14-hour rotating brownout currently afflicting Albay as a devious ploy by SMEC to hold hostage the lifestyle and commerce of Albayanos in order to impose on the people what he calls “the plagues of privatization.”

In ending, Casilihan reiterates, “The people duly demand a stable, sufficient, and affordable source of electricity. As long as these are wanting, it is our right to defend ourselves against the wringing of SMEC of the people’s earnings. We will do so through battling in all forms the exploitation of big capitalists, as well as the government’s anti-people policies.”
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