CEBECO III : Shining through the clouds of economic uncertainties

     The Cebu III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CEBECO III) in midwest Cebu was organized in 1979, its Board constituted in 1980 immediately after the completion of the Toledo City parish church. The church building was built within 365 days, funded by the donation of ordinary churchgoers. The parish priest, Fr. Francisco G. Silva, decided to involve himself in the electric coop to ensure the early implementation of the electrification program of Toledo City as a gesture of gratitude to the parishioners. He first became the coop’s Board President and when the National Electrification Administration (NEA) failed to send a General Manager, assumed the position himself.

     Initially, the coop held office at a small nipa hut at the back of the Toledo church. The church sacristy was used as the coop’s warehouse giving substance to the joke that the materials were sacred and should not be tampered with. Later, the coop transferred to its own building in barangay Luray II.

     The construction of the lines was awarded to MS Construction based in Manila. But when the contractor failed to cope up with the schedule, the coop took over and finished it 9 months ahead, energizing the city on January 6, 1981.

     At the outset, the employees took it among themselves to aim for the top, be the best coop in 5 years. So they did what the others did not do; work 12 hours daily, starting at 6 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening. They adopted a strict regimen, severely punishing those who violated their self-imposed rules and regulations. One of the factors identified as a cause of failure of corporations is the chronic tardiness of employees in reporting for work, a trait attributed in general to the Filipino attitude towards meetings and appointments. So they waged a war on tardiness, with immediate sanctions for latecomers. This is one of the successes of the coop that are carried up to the present. For example, in the whole year of 2000, of the 106 employees then, nobody was ever late. On other years, tardiness averaged single digit, less than 10 occurences, a feat no other corporation can beat.

     The employees’ sacrifices paid off. Exactly on the fifth year, in August, 1986, out of the 119 electric coops, CEBECO III was declared as the most outstanding coop in the country. The coop’s general manager, Fr. Francisco G. Silva, garnered the coveted Pedro G. Dumol trophy as Most Outstanding General Manager award in 1987, holding it for the next five years, culminating into his elevation to the Hall of Fame in 1991. The coop was also elevated to the Hall of Fame as Most Outstanding Coop in 1996 together with CEBECO I, and II. The three coops received a citation from then President Ramos for outstanding performance.

     In 1982, during the symbolic energization ceremony for all of Cebu’s towns and cities, Administrator Gen. Dumol exhorted the coop management to be the lead in spreading the gospel of rural electrification. What he meant then was for CEBECO III to share its experiences with others as it had a lot to share. That had been a very prophetic message. The coop is now a laboratory for others to learn and emulate.

     Through the years, the coop has embarked on a number of initiatives and innovations. It strengthened the community electricians making them effective partners in the implementation of the coop’s electrification program and in the fight against electricity pilferage. It implemented a sustainable employee development program, capacitating the employees to be the coop’s information officers. It computerized its billing system in 1990 and its accounting system at the turn of the century. Together with CEBECO I and II, it initiated a daily employee information sharing, designed to prepare the employees for their work that day. It developed a corporate culture and a corporate philosophy. It has a continuing teambuilding program and its employees are very much united, seeing themselves as brothers and sisters, members of one big happy family. The whole organization embraced the tenet of respect for all regardless of status in life and love of God and their fellowmen. Service in the coop is equated to God’s law of Love. All these brought the coop to the pinnacle of performance.

     Fr. Silva was subsequently appointed as the 7th Administrator of NEA on September 11, 2001, a fitting tribute to his contribution to the program. Early in 2004, he was appointed as the Presidential Adviser on Rural Electrification, with cabinet rank. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s directed him to initiate reforms in the NEA and the coops, professionalize them and prepare them for the changes and challenges in the industry.

     Fr. Silva’s current thrust, in line with the President’s directive, is to create the Electric Cooperative Academy of the Philippines, a learning forum for electric coop personnel. This academy will exploit the collective experiences of the men and women of the electrification program to mold and duplicate models of success. The academy will be located in two sites, one for Luzon and another for the Visayas and Mindanao. For Luzon, the academy will be based at the NEA Building in Diliman, Quezon City. The other one will be in Cebu. You’re right. It will be at the CEBECO III Headquarters in Toledo City.