ELECTRIC cooperatives are pushing for greater autonomy for the industry by supporting a move to give the National Electrification Administration (NEA) greater budgetary leeway through a proposed law that is backed by some members of the House of Representatives.

Presley C. De Jesus, president of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (Philreca), said one of the group’s priorities is the conversion of NEA into the National Electrification Authority.

Through Philreca, which won a seat at the House of Representatives in the last election as a party-list, he said he would push for the passage of House Bill 468 to streamline the budget process for a reconfigured NEA, among others.

The proposed measure, aside from renaming the agency, seeks to define and enhance the powers of NEA, including its functions and operations to achieve the government’s policy for total rural electrification.

Mr. De Jesus, who is Philreca’s nominee in Congress, said the bill is his top priority as a Representative.

Asked to comment, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said the electric cooperatives are free to do as they please, even with their plan to convert NEA into an “Authority.”

Wala ri’ng problema sa akin ‘yun,”(it’s not a problem) he said. “Whether you are authority, you are administration… or whatever, gawin lang natin ang trabaho, wala tayong problema.” (Let’s just do our jobs, and there will be no problems).

In the meantime, he said while electric cooperatives remain under his supervision, the Department of Energy (DoE) will continue monitoring their performance and will cancel franchises for non-performing cooperatives if necessary.

“It’s not a threat, but it’s a job that we have to do,” he said.

“Cooperatives have done their job,” Mr. Cusi said. “The only thing is that now, the game requires a higher level of performance so we have to elevate.”

However, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian questioned the proposal, saying the DoE and NEA, in their current form, need to coordinate their actions especially on rural electrification.

“Personally, off-top, the mandate of NEA is to supervise all electric cooperatives in the country as well as to make sure that the missionary responsibilities of the electric co-ops are being met, meaning they are given a franchise to operate and to serve all the unserved areas,” he said.

Mr. Gatchalian said the cooperatives’ mandate requires “social responsibility.”

“DoE, being the lead agency when it comes to energy and power, has that responsibility also,” he said.

He said the two agencies “should be in line when it comes to electrification policies.” He added that the two cannot be separated, since DoE as the lead agency crafts the policies that NEA implements.

“NEA needs to work with DoE, and DoE needs to have control the agency because it is mandated to roll out electrification,” he added. — Victor V. Saulon