Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday urged the Senate to reject the move to grant a franchise to Bicol Light and Power Corp. (Bicol Light).
De Lima said granting the franchise to Bicol Light would be counterproductive, especially for voters in Iriga town and the towns of Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula and Nabua in Camarines Sur, who are covered by Bill 4437 or the Bicol Light franchise bill.
The senator pointed out that even the outgoing mayors of Camarines Sur, the Bicol Electric Cooperative Association (BECA) and the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) have all spoken out against the House measure.
“I, as a daughter of Iriga City, join my fellow Irigueños and my provincial comrades in Cam. On opposing this measure, ”De Lima said in a statement.
“The people of Camarines Sur deserve better from the Senate,” she said.
De Lima pointed out that the existing legislative franchise granted to CASURECO III in the region overlaps with those that Bicol Light seeks to serve. In addition, the CASURECO III franchise will not expire before June 6, 2029.
“We are all witnessing the spectacular turnaround of CASURECO III from a category C electric cooperative in 2017 to a category AA in 2019. This testifies to the resilience of this cooperative and its commitment to progress,” said the senator.
“The granting of a second distribution franchise in the region will reverse this advance and put aside the hard work of the people of CASURECO III and its members,” she warned.
De Lima explained that Bicol Light is a private company with very different objectives than an electric cooperative. She said that while the promoters of Bicol Light promise superior service in terms of electrification, they do so with the knowledge that they will get a sizable return on their investment.
On the other hand, CASURECO III seeks to provide electrification to its member-consumers within the framework of social justice and economic development.
“It is not motivated by a capitalist appetite but by a global intention to serve and provide rural electrification,” she stressed.
“Two electricity distribution companies cannot coexist in the same area. One is doomed to bankrupt the other due to the limited nature of the market. There is no doubt that Bicol Light can raise enough capital to spend more than CASURECO III, but it is also certain that consumers will pay the price for this competition, ”she stressed.
She also warned that if Bicol Light were to successfully bankrupt CASURECO III, it would force its customers to pay the cost of entering the market.
“Bicol Light is not trying to end a monopoly. He wants to be one, ”she said.
“If our Congress wants to give anyone a chance to meet the electricity needs of the people of Rinconada in Camarines Sur, we must give it to CASURECO III. We have already given them a franchise. You might as well honor it. So far, they have proven that they can go all the way in providing quality and affordable service to their consumer members, ”she reiterated.
“It is up to us to let them stay the course and to show us that even electric cooperatives have their place in the progress of our country. I call on my colleagues to reject HB 4437. Let us honor the existing legislative voting rights of CASURECO III and protect the inhabitants of Camarines Sur, ”said De Lima.
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