LUKEWARM RECEPTION? Ceneco seeks extended JVA plebiscite dates

By Dolly Yasa

The Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) in Bacolod City plans to extend the plebiscite for its proposed Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with companies owned by billionaire Enrique Razon. Atty. Arnel Lapore, the acting general manager of Ceneco, explained that they intend to hold the plebiscite for eight days instead of the originally planned four days. This extension aims to allow over 207,000 consumers sufficient time to participate in the voting process. The decision to extend the plebiscite stems from the passive attitude of Ceneco’s member-consumers towards its activities, particularly the JVA proposal, despite extensive public relations efforts in recent months.

Ceneco is currently seeking the legal opinion of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure that the extended plebiscite will not violate any election laws, considering the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE). The official election period for the BSKE is set to begin on August 28, leading up to the elections on October 30. Originally scheduled for June 24-25 and July 1-2, Ceneco aims to extend the balloting to the first two weekends of August if there are no legal obstacles.

The purpose of the plebiscite is to obtain consumer ratification or approval of the JVA signed by Ceneco with PrimeElectric Holdings Inc. and Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC). PrimeElectric and NEPC are sister companies of MORE Power, which is a power distributor in Iloilo City, all owned by billionaire Enrique Razon. For the JVA to proceed, Ceneco needs the support of the majority, or over 50 percent, of its total consumer-members.

It should be noted that under the JVA, PrimeElectric will invest at least P4 billion to modernize Ceneco’s distribution system. Additionally, PrimeElectric will pay P1.7 billion in cash to Ceneco for its assets, which are valued at approximately P2.4 billion. However, the JVA only covers the distribution assets of Ceneco and does not address the employment of its personnel, who may face separation from their jobs. MORE Power and NEPC president Roel Castro assured Ceneco employees during a recent dialogue that they will prioritize those employees who apply with PrimeElectric. Ceneco will handle the separation and retirement benefits of its workers, including those covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), using funds from PrimeElectric.