COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Public hearing. Anyone? And from what I’ve been listening from our radio commentators of late there was only a hearing, but no public. Which means the people were not represented in that forum called public hearing.
This could have been the case of the public hearing called by Leyeco (Leyte Electric Cooperative) II as it tried to fast track its application for a rate increase in connection with its proposed 2011-2015 Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) Projects. Had Nasecore (National Association of Electricity Consumer for Reforms, Inc.) together with some members of the Tacloban Federation of Senior Citizens’ Association were not present in that November 8, 2011 ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) hearing at the Leyeco II main office, only the ERC commissioner and Leyeco II management would be deciding things that affect the electric consumers. No public, but a handful of media personnel acting as an audience.
But even with Nasecore’s presence as the lone intervenor in that ERC hearing, the whole proceedings looked like a mere show of “public consultation” done by Leyeco II. To note, Nasecore was given a copy of that almost 2inch thick CAPEX Projects (Distribution Development Plan) for 2011-2015 only during the said hearing that the Nasecore lawyer didn’t have enough time to study the soundness of the projects to make a relevant inquiry. That was the height of discourtesy on the part of Leyeco II, probably trying to speed up their application and not wanting intervention from the electric consumers who are going to finance the projects.
Another show of discourtesy or even arrogance by the electric cooperative to its member consumers is that the proposal for this 2011-2015 CAPEX Projects was never presented to the General Membership Assemblies for a thorough dialogue and discussion of details. Leyeco II had all the time for that kind of public consultation as this development plan was prepared two years earlier. On the other hand, Leyeco IV presented the proposal of its 2011-2015 CAPEX Projects in three District Membership Assemblies and during its Annual General Membership Assembly all held within this year. So why did Leyeco II failed to conduct the same?
Leyeco II instead chose the path of least resistance; publishing their development plan in a local newspaper of which no one has a way to intervene, and airing at the different radio stations of which no one has the time to intervene. Electric consumers are being reduced to mere audience. Going straight to the media and the ERC for approval was a great abuse of power by the electric cooperative and a great disservice to the electric consumers from which funding for the proposed projects is being sourced. Leyeco II’s P431M Capital Expenditure Projects once approved by the ERC will translate to a P0.1431 per kilowatt-hour increase in our electricity rates.
Much as our electric cooperative proclaims to be a non-profit and non-stock entity, refusing to register with the Cooperative Development Authority, it is behaving like a private corporation and deciding things on its own as if it is going to finance its own projects. It has even been advertising its outreach programs under the caption of “corporate social responsibility.” In going straight to the ERC and the media with its project proposal, Leyeco II would like the electric consumers to accept anything they do without question and swallow any rate increase they would impose without question.
As member consumers, we should be vigilant in guarding our rights as owners of the electric cooperatives especially that the coops are handling millions of public funds not subject to a COA (Commission on Audit) audit. The electric coops survive on the monthly payment of our electric bills and we should demand for accountability and transparency in their operations and business transactions.
November 28, 2011