Palace amenable to penalty provision vs failing electric coops

By Myrna M. Velasco – November 4, 2018, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

President Rodrigo Duterte has reportedly agreed in principle on the institutionalization of a “penalty provision” against electric cooperatives (ECs) that have been failing on their electrification mandate.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said such policy had been discussed with Duterte and his initial response was that “he was amenable to it” – thus, the Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed a penalty clause to be incorporated in an Executive Order (EO) that shall be issued by Malacañang soon.

In fact, he noted that in the Duterte’s words, he wants to “put a stop” to hurdles in the electrification of rural areas, or those labeled by power utilities as “not viable enough to be served.”

“Currently, if the ECs or the distribution utilities cannot carry out their electrification tasks, there’s no provision for penalty… so they have been taking their sweet time or they are not doing anything about that mandate, only because they can lean on the protection of their franchise,” the energy chief has asserted.

That then prompted the DOE to seek retribution scheme against these power utilities that have not been exerting as much effort to bring electricity access – especially into the remote parts of their service areas.

“Our proposed penalty is that once we are given the power, we are going to carve out these areas and give it to other developers which can do the job of bringing electricity to these unserved and under-served areas,” Cusi explained.

He noted that his department mainly asked for a Palace-sanctioned EO because it was Duterte himself who had given them instruction to ensure total electrification of all parts of the country during his term.

Cusi said that “since these service providers have franchise, there had been no urgency for them to carry out the work especially if it entails certain cost considerations… but that cannot be, we want the franchise-holders to immediately execute, regardless whether you are a DU or an electric cooperative, you have to perform your responsibilities without fail.”

He added: “I am not against electric cooperatives, but I am against the inefficiencies and subjecting our people to that…many of our people are getting old and even dying without given the benefit of electricity service which should not have been the case because that is part of their basic right as a citizen of the country.”

Cusi said the many areas suffering from such a dilemma are remote villages as well as the island-provinces, and through the years, it already became an acceptable agony for them “just because power utilities have an entitlement for a franchise, I don’t think that’s fair.”

As a matter of fact, the Philippines is in the roll of countries of which rural areas’ access to electricity is still tremendously scant, along with other Southeast Asian nations like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, according to a recent report of the World Bank.

The World Bank’s study on “The Status of Infrastructure Services in East Asia and the Pacific” that was released in Singapore has noted that outside of the high-income countries in the region, others still struggle in terms of access to electricity service.