A Tale of Two Cities

The recent promise of better service by Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) CEO Roel Castro, following the Senate’s approval of its franchise, brings a glimmer of hope to the residents of Bacolod City and Central Negros.

The commitment to improve electricity distribution in Central Negros comes at a time when the region’s power woes have reached a critical point, with residential rates soaring from P11/kWh to P15/kWh in just a month.

The Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between NEPC and Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) is a step towards addressing these challenges, but it also highlights a broader conversation about the role of private sector investments in public utilities.

In juxtaposition, Iloilo City offers a compelling narrative of transformation through privatization. When MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) took over the distribution utility services, the city experienced a remarkable turnaround.

The private sector’s efficiency, investment in modern infrastructure, and commitment to consumer satisfaction have resulted in significantly improved services.

Iloilo City’s success under MORE Power underscores the potential benefits of private sector involvement in public utilities—a model that Bacolod City and its suburbs can look to as it embarks on this new chapter with NEPC.

The experience of Iloilo City serves as a testament to the positive impact of private sector investments. Since MORE Power’s takeover, residents have witnessed a reduction in power interruptions, better customer service, and more reliable electricity distribution. The company’s strategic investments in modernizing the grid and addressing systemic issues have paid off, making Iloilo City a benchmark for effective public-private partnerships in the power sector.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that Ceneco still retains a stake in NEPC, which implies an ongoing responsibility towards consumer welfare. The cooperative’s involvement ensures that the public’s interest remains a priority, even as private investments drive operational improvements. This balance between public oversight and private efficiency is key to ensuring that the benefits of privatization are realized without compromising the cooperative’s accountability to its members.

Looking beyond the regional context, several other joint ventures and management efforts between electric cooperatives and private entities have shown promising results. For instance, the partnership between Davao Light and Power Company and the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative has led to enhanced service delivery and infrastructure development. Similarly, the collaboration between Aboitiz Power and Cotabato Light and Power Company has resulted in significant improvements in service reliability and customer satisfaction.

These examples underscore a growing trend of successful public-private partnerships in the energy sector, where the infusion of private capital and expertise complements the public sector’s commitment to serving the community. The NEPC-Ceneco joint venture has the potential to follow this trajectory, provided that it leverages the strengths of both entities to address the region’s power challenges effectively.

As Bacolod City stands on the brink of this new era, the experiences of Iloilo City and other regions offer valuable lessons. The path to improved power services is paved with strategic investments, modern infrastructure, and a steadfast commitment to consumer welfare. By embracing these principles, NEPC and Ceneco can transform Bacolod City’s power landscape, delivering on their promise of better service and setting a new standard for the region.

The transformation of Iloilo City’s power sector under MORE Power’s stewardship serves as a beacon of what is possible with the right blend of private investment and public oversight. Bacolod City, through the NEPC-Ceneco joint venture, has the opportunity to emulate this success. With a focus on modernizing infrastructure, ensuring efficient operations, and prioritizing consumer welfare, Bacolod can look forward to a future of reliable and affordable power—bringing to life the promise of better service for all.