By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Dolly Yasa
The Committee on Legislative Franchises of the House of Representatives approved in principle the bill granting a franchise to Negros Electric and Power Corp (NEPC) to operate in the area of Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) in Negros Occidental.
The panel made the decision after a comprehensive review of House Bill 9310 presented by four Negrense lawmakers – Representatives Juliet Marie Ferrer, Stephen Paduano, Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, and Greg Gasataya.
Chaired by Rep. Gus Tambunting, the committee discussed in length HB 9310, which outlines the transfer of Ceneco’s franchise to NEPC as part of their joint venture agreement which consumers already approved.
The franchise encompasses the cities of Bacolod, Bago, Silay, and Talisay and the municipalities of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto.
During the deliberation, Negrense representatives underscored the urgency of NEPC’s intervention, citing the financial struggles faced by Ceneco.
The financial woes stemmed from a shortage of Capital Expenditures crucial for the modernization of existing facilities.
NEPC and Ceneco officials, along with representatives from the National Electrification Administration, Energy Regulatory Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission, were present at the hearing, reflecting the gravity of the decision.
Central to the discussions was the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA), emphasizing the conduct and outcome of its ratification through a plebiscite where the majority of Ceneco consumers upheld the agreement.
The committee eventually approved, in principle, the proposed bill. However, this approval is contingent on the submission of specific documents.
NEPC President Roel Castro said that they would submit the documents and answer in writing the issues raised by some committee members.
The move signifies a critical juncture in reshaping the energy landscape in Central Negros, with NEPC poised to play a transformative role in the area’s electric distribution service.
MAYOR WANTS FRANCHISE BY YEAREND
Meanwhile, Bacolod City mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said that if it’s up to him, he would want that the Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) will be granted its congressional franchise by yearend.
“Kon ako lang, gusto ko by end of the year ara, so we can move forward,” Benitez said in a press conference Tuesday.
Benitez said he was informed Monday night that the House Committee on Energy has already approved the granting of a congressional franchise to NEPC.
“It just shows that, as I said that if everything is in order, kag matarong man ang mga stakeholders and the players involved, there will be no hitches, there will be no major obstacle, so it is expected,” he added.
From the committee, it will go to the plenary, then to the Senate, Benitez said.
“Kon ako lang, kon pwede dali-on na nila matapos this year, so we can move forward,” he reiterated.
Benitez also stressed, “we are hoping for better service.”
He also said that what he likes about the people behind NEPC in their continued talks is the promotion of green power and energy adding that “we are looking at converting Bacolod into a city that is fully renewable energy ang power source.”
Benitez added that they also discussed plans on how to improve the city’s power grid and eventually resort to underground cabling of electric wires.