Widening the Ownership of Public utilities.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, November 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

Widening the Ownership of Public utilities.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


SINCE the time of President Quezon, governments embarked on programs of imposing tenant farmers shares in the harvest.

Eventually, even expropriating land from the owners for distribution to tillers who did not own land. Under the above philosophical distribution of the means of production, I see no reason why ownership of businesses that requires a Congressional franchise to engage in running a public utility, should not be distributed to the widest possible number of individuals. For example: communication companies, MRT-LRT, railroads, shipping, and power generation and distribution. The government in line with that social concept has widened the ownership of power generation and distribution in the rural areas by creating electric cooperatives. The records though of electric co ops has been disappointing. Many such Co ops have been mismanaged that the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was compelled many times to take over electric co ops. Some of the ills have been because of politics and outright accommodation of "friends" in the process, the officers of the Co ops treat it as if it was their privilege to collect or not their electric fees. Many of the said co ops are now bankrupt or unable to pay the amortization of their loans, forcing the national government to assume their obligations under certain conditions. Of course, one can say that there are quite a number of electric co ops that are successful. The most prominent are the co ops of Cebu i.e. the (Cebu Electric Cooperative) -Cebeco 1-2 etc. The secret of success is plain, simple no-nonsense management. For example: if a consumer fails to pay, the co op just cuts off the connection No ifs or buts. If he or she happens to be a leader of, or a politician, it's just too bad "no payment, no electricity." Then of course, you have the usual graft in the acquisition of supplies and materials which to my knowledge has been almost completely eliminated.

Having given the positive and negative aspects of a wider distribution of ownership of rural electric companies, let us discuss Meralco, considering what is at stake that bears on the national economy, social and political repercussions including our international credit standing. I am glad that the government is now studying many options besides its obligations to implement the final decision of the Supreme Court. …

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