Why should the people suffer en masse from sins not of their own making?
This is the reaction of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) in a statement released after the National Grid Corporation (NGCP) cut off the power supply for the Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative III, Inc. (CASURECO III, Inc.) two days ago. The NGCP action left some 78,000 consumers of Iriga City and the municipalities of Bato, Baao, Balatan, Bula, Nabua, and Buhi – or what is known as Rinconada – without power up to now.
Both the residential and commercial customers of these towns immediately denounced the forced disconnection last March 30, 2014, saying people and business should not be penalized for the failures of the CASURECO III board of directors as well as the National Electrification Administration (NEA). NEA assumed jurisdiction over the electric cooperative last February 2014 using its “step-in” rights and failed to ensure that the cooperative could pay its bills.
“Grid disconnection is denial of electricity to citizens on a massive scale. It is a ruthless form of collective punishment that is patently unacceptable,” Jun Unay, coordinator of the SENTRO Power Industry Workers’ Council declared.
Unay explained that the guidelines under the Magna Carta for Electricity Consumers was silent on what kind of framework NGCP should follow in implementing grid-scale disconnection that impacts on the right of every consumers, big and small, to enjoy stable and reliable supply of electricity. As such, SENTRO emphasized that under such a situation, the national government is duty-bound to protect the rights and interest of its people rather than leave them captive and helpless in an industry ruled by crooks and oligarchs.
“Government should have a national policy protecting electricity consumers from forced, grid-scale disconnection due to unpaid power bills by their electric cooperatives,” Unay asserted.
While calling on the government to immediately reconnect power in Bicol , SENTRO also called for the establishment of clear guidelines in securing guaranteed labor rights such as job and income security for those affected by new policies being implemented by NEA for both ailing and non-ailing electric cooperatives.
“The government takes over electric cooperatives with the intent of turning them over to private corporations, trampling upon labor and consumer rights in the process,” according to SENTRO National Secretary General Josua Mata.
SENTRO cited the case of Albay Electric Cooperative Inc. (ALECO, Inc.) whose employees were terminated and replaced when San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC) took over the electric cooperative in 2014. On the same year, the same happened in Pampanga Electric Cooperative II, Inc. (PELCO II, Inc.) where hundreds of regular employees were also displaced by NEA’s scheme of management contract.
The SENTRO is a national labor center where the unions in CASURECO III, the CASURECO III Employees Union (CEU III) and CASURECO III Supervisory Union