Consumer group: Subsidy, improved transparency not privatization key to improving basic services

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The key to improving services is not privatization but government subsidy, and improved transparency.

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These options were pushed by the Negros Electric Coop and Stakeholders Coalition, a consumers’ group that bucks privatization of utilities firms like the Central Negros Electric Cooperative.

The consumer group clarified that their group is not against improving services for consumers.

On the contrary, the group is calling for “reforms” as well as “proactive improvement of the services provided” public utilities, but not “privatization and monopolization of our public utilities” especially if this means compromising the environment, and sacrificing the interest of the consumers.

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What the coalition pushes for instead is increasing the transparency of the plans, management and operations, and budgeting of the public utilities by making these accessible and open for review by member-consumers-owners.

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They also pushed to hold management and the boards of the utilities firms to higher accountability especially in making decisions that would have and impact on consumer welfare.

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The consumer group also called for an increase in the “direct participation of the member-consumers-owners and power to directly influence the management of the utilities”.

“This will serve as a strong accountability mechanism to the public utilities to do better and strive for the best at providing the service,” the coalition added.

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The group also called for a campaign to educate and empower the consumers, as well as proper allocation of funds including government subsidy when needed.

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“[W]e believe that our public utilities especially here in Negros are financially capable and stable to invest and provide excellent service to its consumers but allocating the money effectively and strategically is something to be considered seriously,” the group said.

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Government subsidy “will also have a big impact” as the money could fund system improvements by adding more sub-stations and replacing undersize conductor wires, poles and transformers for proper load balancing and avoiding other causes of power fluctuations in order to avoid charging it to consumers in capital expenditures (CAPEX).

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Finally, the group said, it aims to “put people and environment at the center of its motivation to providing service to consumers”, which includes looking for innovations, and technological options to improve services like sourcing the energy from renewable which could drive down cost of electricity by almost 30 percent.

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