Thursday, November 29, 2007

Consumer Rights and Electric Cooperatives

Electric cooperatives in the Philippines are interesting phenomenon. For one, it is gradually turning out to be the last frontier in the classic confrontation of economic and political models. Can collective ownership work or is private operation better? Will peoples participation make a difference in the governance of electric cooperatives? Though these questions may be debated on the hypothetical level, contemporary realites mandate a broader appreciation of the situation. Electric cooperatives in the countryside are presently owned by the people. And legislative measures, such as the EPIRA, have armed consumers with significant power in the industry.

The Regional Conference on Consumer Rights and Electric Cooperatives in the Philippine Power Industry last 16-17 November in Naga City is a landmark undertaking for various reasons. First, it marks the initial collaboration among the Ateneo de Naga University Institute of Politics, the National Electrification Administration, and the Metro Naga Consumer Group. Second, it signals the strengthening of consumer group by raising awareness on consumer rights and anti-corruption initiatives. And third, it symbolizes the consumers’ clamor for greater transparency and enhanced peoples participation in the governance of electric cooperatives in the Bicol Region.

The current involvement in the effort to initiate reforms in the power industry cannot be viewed as a one-shot, area-specific intervention only. Instead, there is a broader context to be considered: the fight against corruption.

Anti-corruption initiatives is becoming the focal point for mobilization. It is a longer process, but it pays to invest on people. Examples of groups involved in anti-corruption initiatives are the CODE-NGO, Makati Business Club, TAN, and even the World Bank itself. Along this line, the Metro Naga Consumer Movement is not alone. In fact, this regional conference shows how strong the peoples movement can be when given the right motivation and support!

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