Legazpi city (PNA) — After more than three decades of perceived tolerance, a bankrupt power cooperative has finally come out against power cheaters believed to be among the major causes of its present predicament.
The loan-laden Albay Power Cooperative (Aleco) has started getting strict on big power consumers cheating on their electric consumption to the detriment of honest power users.
Now under the management control of the National Electrification Administration since early 2011, the Aleco created a task force to run after power cheaters who had installed jumpers, which reportedly caused the bulk of the cooperative’s 23-percent high systems loss.
The Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) allows only a maximum 13 percent systems loss.
The task force against power pilferages has members from the ERC, National Bureau of Investigation, police, and Aleco-NEA.
Of the initial five big firms caught with jumpers, four were identified as a three-star hotel reportedly owned by a congressman, a three-star hotel owned by a Filipino-Chinese businessman, another two-star hotel, and a construction firm with batching plant owned by a party-list congressman.
Earlier, the Aleco reportedly cut off the power connection of one of the five big firms who were initially caught with jumpers last December for failing to settle its P5 million computed liabilities.
The power connection, however, was restored during the day after its owner signed a compromise agreement for the early settlement of its financial obligations.
A total of P35 million had been computed and imposed on the cheating five big firms, Rey Reverente, Aleco general manager, said earlier.
Reacting to the anti-pilferage campaign, Rep. Fernando Gonzales (Albay 3rd District) commented on the Aleco-NEA’s poor partnership in running against big-time power cheaters.
Gonzales said the high systems loss, which is being passed on to consumers, must be drastically reduced by unmasking the big-time cheaters.
According to him, he received information that his district (third district) reportedly has the biggest big-time cheaters but “how come the five alleged cheaters initially caught are located in Legazpi City in the second district.”
Gonzales said next to his district in terms of cheaters is the first district but, he said, he has not learned of any big-time cheaters caught in the first and third districts.
The Albay congressman said, “We have been concerned over the sympathetic situation of the Aleco which is saddled with almost P4 billion debts that all the six Albay congressmen and local executives have already agreed with the NEA privatization efforts. But these power cheaters must be unmasked now since the poor consumers are the once sufferings.”
A member of the Aleco interim board of director, who asked not to be named, however, said the campaign against power pilferages has died down after some violators were caught last December.
As a solution to Aleco’s dilemma, the NEA is now hurrying up its privatization.
Aleco is said to be among the 10th worst cooperatives allegedly as a result of mismanagement and corruption.
The Aleco management control during the past 30 years has been alternately made between the Aleco consumers-elected board of directors and NEA.
In early 2011, NEA took the management control again of Aleco to save the cooperative from total collapse. And the next step being planned is privatization.
But the Aleco Labor and Employees Union, backed by a multi-sectoral stakeholders group, said it is contesting the privatization, saying the cause of Aleco bankruptcy is “mismanagement and extreme graft and corruption under Aleco and NEA managements.”
Noel Cantal, Aleco Labor and Employees Union vice president, said the Aleco-NEA management should be truthful in its campaign against firms with jumpers, saying this is just one of the sources of livelihood of corrupt officials in the cooperative.
He said these cheaters must be charged in court in violation of the anti-pilferage law, in line with the “Matuwid na Daan” program of President Aquino.
Cantal asked the Aleco-NEA management team to file criminal cases against the firm owners found with jumpers, saying the civil liability is not enough because power cheating is a criminal offense.
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