A renewed call against privatization

by Vince Casilihan

“A rally of resoluteness in the face of the portents of privatization.” This is what Vince Casilihan of Karapatan-Bicol has to prompt as a battle cry to fellow Bicolanos amidst renewed threats of electricity disconnection in Bicol.

The human rights alliance spokesperson expresses the organization’s censure of the permanent threats of power disconnection confronting electric cooperatives in the region. Casilihan reiterates that these are “deceitful maneuvers that shove the people’s electric cooperatives against the wall in order to force them into privatization”. “Aquino’s lackeys in the Department of Energy, along with energy industry powerbrokers and crooked officials of electric cooperatives, crack their brains on how to insist privatization and deprive the people of their economic rights and extort them of hard-earned money,” he further protests.

Persisting notices of power stoppage consistently hound electric cooperatives ALECO and CASURECO II, in view of the fact that the said local power distributors are unable to meet remittance obligations in millions of pesos to energy generators and the transmission monopoly NGCP. Both ALECO and CASURECO II face disconnection anew on January 27 of this year. While high power rates, mismanagement, and corruption are readily pointed out as responsible for such predicament, Karapatan-Bicol offers a sharper evaluation. “Indeed, the people are plagued with soaring prices of social services and rotten officials,” Casilihan says. “Nevertheless, we must direct our fight towards the privatization policy of Aquino’s government that grants big capitalists uncontrollable power to conveniently wring money from the people. Our struggle must therefore be that of a multi-spiked spear – concentrating on privatization, while encompassing high prices, mismanagement and corruption,” Casilihan expounds.

Casilihan refers to EPIRA as the infamous license which allows for the privatization and deregulation of the energy industry. Enacted in 2001 and continued to be bolstered by Noynoy Aquino, EPIRA has foreseeably resulted in monopoly. “The big capitalists delight in EPIRA,” laments Casilihan. “This is why we have the power industry’s top five colluding to profit unabatedly in the region.”

Karapatan-Bicol notes that electricity supply in the region are controlled by no less than the five big compradors that dominate 80% of the country’s power generation. Aboitiz locks power supplies to CANORECO, while Cojuangco secures ALECO, together with CASURECO 1 and 3. CASURECO 2, on the other hand, buys its energy needs from the Lopez-owned BacMan and US-owned AES. The Ayala Group has also captured power generation for the province of Sorsogon, while Consunji clinches Masbate. Catanduanes has its power supply contract with multinational energy company ABB. Meanwhile, Henry Sy’s National Grid Corporation of the Philippines controls transmission facilities in the country.

“And with insatiable greed, these monsters are not content with passing on generation, transmission, systems loss charges and other unjust payments,” Casilihan exposes. “Now, thanks to the government’s neglect, even public distribution units like ALECO and CASURECO are prey to sharks,” he continues. The human rights worker reckons that it is EPIRA and privatization which spawned the adversity in the energy sector, to the damning plight of the people.

“We restate our standpoint,” Casilihan confirms. “While Aquino’s government pursues its neglect of social services and carries on with offering the public’s welfare as a milking cow for his voracious class, takeovers of electric cooperatives by member-consumers will prevail. This will illustrate how formidable the people’s might is in collectively fighting an exploitative few, and forging a government truly representative of the people.