Sen. Grace Poe Sponsorship Speech for Negros Power Franchise

Negros Power Franchise sponsorship by Sen Grace Poe and Cong Kiko Benitez - Bacolod City - CENECO linemen - Senate hearing

Senator Grace Poe delivered a sponsorship speech on April 29, 2024, advocating for the Negros Power franchise and addressing concerns regarding skipped bills of two electric cooperatives. In her speech, she emphasized the crucial role of power distribution utilities in providing affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy amid rising temperatures and El Niño conditions.


Senator Poe presented three measures aimed at ensuring continued access to quality power services. These measures focus on granting a franchise to Negros Electric and Power Corporation, formed through a joint venture agreement between Primelectric Holdings Inc. and Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO). The speech highlighted the challenges faced by CENECO due to financial constraints and the potential benefits of modernizing the distribution system through investment from Negros Power.

The speech also addressed legal concerns regarding the joint venture agreement and the execution of a plebiscite. Senator Poe clarified the legal basis for the agreement and responded to allegations of irregularities in the plebiscite process. Additionally, she assured support for CENECO employees affected by the transition.

Senator Poe concluded by expressing optimism that these measures would lead to improved power services for the country, ensuring that no child studies by candlelight and no parent stays up worrying about their children. She emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind to advancements in the power sector and urged colleagues to prioritize public needs in the legislative process.

Read the whole speech here:


Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, good afternoon. As the heat index in the country remains dangerously high and is projected to continue rising at the peak of the summer season and amid El Niño, there is no more fitting time than today, to present, for the Body’s consideration, three (3) measures that will ensure our power consumers continued access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy.

Power distribution is just one of the sectors of the electric power industry but carries more public impact as a direct distributor of electricity to end-users. Thus, the demand is high for these distribution utilities to fulfill their obligations as public service providers.

House Bill No. 9805 is a measure borne out of public clamour for better power service in Negros Occidental. It seeks to grant a franchise to Negros Electric and Power Corporation, a partnership formed through the joint venture 2 agreement (JVA) between Primelectric, the same parent company of Iloilo’s MORE Power, and Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO), the existing power distribution utility in the cities of Bacolod, Bago and Silay and the Municipalities of Murcia and Talisay in Negros Occidental.

Kinikilala natin ang mga nagawa ng CENECO sa limang dekada nitong serbisyo sa mga member-consumers sa Negros. Undeniably, through these years, there has been remarkable growth in Western Visayas which included CENECO’s franchise area. However, as demand for power continues to increase, CENECO was unable to keep up with the challenges.

CENECO has admitted to its inability to rehabilitate and upgrade its facilities due to its current financial standing. NEA has reported that CENECO is operating at a negative profit margin and has failed to pay its debts timely. In 2023, it was classified as a Yellow-1 electric cooperative for its poor performance on collection efficiency, systems loss, working capital requirements, and financial operations.

Amid these difficulties, NEPC has expressed its readiness and willingness to invest capital to modernize the distribution system and address the operational challenges. We believe this investment would benefit not only the franchise area but also the power sector and the Philippine economy in general.

Nakikita naman natin ang nagawa ng MORE Power sa Iloilo simula nang maipasa natin ang prangkisa nito noong 2019. Consumers in its franchise area now enjoy lower rates, vast improvement in facilities, and better customer service.

Ang maganda sa pagkakaroon ng kasunduang ito ay mutual ang objective ng dalawang partido na mapabuti ang serbisyo ng kuryente para sa mga Negrense.

On the Legality of the Plebiscite

I would also like to take this opportunity to respond to the issues raised during the public hearing questioning the legality of the joint venture agreement and the execution of a plebiscite:

  • a. First and foremost, Section 16 of Presidential Decree No. 269 or the NEA Act authorizes electric cooperatives, like CENECO, to enter into contracts. Therefore, the execution of the JVA is left to the wisdom of CENECO.
  • b. Second, based on NEA’s guidance to CENECO, the JVA was considered a sale of CENECO’s asset and should therefore comply with Section 36 of Presidential Decree No. 269 which mandates CENECO to secure affirmative vote of not less than the majority of all members of the cooperative, and the consent of NEA.

Noong panahong ito, wala pang implementing rules ang NEA para sa nasabing probisyon. Samakatuwid, wala ring batas na nagsasabing sa general assembly dapat makuha ang consent ng member-consumers. CENECO was given discretion to formulate and implement its guidelines for their chosen voting platform which is through a plebiscite.

  • c. Third, on claims of irregularities in the conduct of the plebiscite, we are in receipt of the position papers of the regulators and LGUs covered by the franchise area who maintained the integrity of the plebiscite. There were no reports from voting precincts or any remedial action timely filed to protest the voting result. NEA was even tapped to cleanse the master list of voters of dead or missing people.
  • d. Fourth, CENECO employees will be paid the retirement or separation pay due to them. NEPC will also give preference to hiring qualified employees who will resign, retire or cease working for CENECO. Hindi naman sila pababayaan.

Mr. President, my sponsorship of these measures reflect my optimism that these power distribution utilities will pave the way for better and more expansive power service in our country. Hangad nating wala ng batang mag aaral sa liwanag ng kandila o gasera at wala ng magulang ang mapupuyat kakapaypay sa kanilang mga anak.

Let me end by saying that as members of the legislative branch, we have to keep an open mind to the changing times – whether it is to encourage companies to pursue renewable sources of energy or to allow them to invest more in the power sector. Our task is to be responsive to the needs of our constituents not only today but also in the future.

I thank my colleagues for your preliminary support for these measures, for signing the committee reports in a very timely manner. I hope that we can deliberate these with the public need in mind.

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