February 28, 2024

The Benguet Electric Cooperative remains upbeat about its intention to manage the city-owned hydro power plants in Tuba, Benguet.

Beneco Assistant General Manager Melchor Licoben said the distribution utility is not abandoning its plan to rehabilitate, manage, and operate the Asin facilities, a proposal it had been presenting to the city government even before Kaltimex Energy Philippines was awarded the contract to undertake the project.

“We will continue studying our options on Asin and see if we can offer a deal that is better than the proposal submitted to the city government,” Licoben said.

Private firm Repower Energy Development Corporation(REDC) was granted the original proponent status (OPS) to rehabilitate the Asin power plants, a venture that followed after the city government terminated the contract it awarded to Kaltimex.

REDC presented its proposal, called the “Asin Hydropower Plants Development and Improvement Project,” during the public-private partnership summit held in Baguio recently where other investorsalso discussed their plans to help the administration achieve its development programs for the city.

Among other things, the REDC said it will modernize the three power plants and comply with the obligations mandated by Energy Regulations 1-94 that requires power developers to allocate P0.01 per kilowatt-hour to the communities hosting their operations.

Licoben said Beneco will study REDC’s proposal to the city and what the distribution utility can offer if ever the deal reaches the stage where it will undergo the Swiss Challenge.

The awarding of the OPS to the REDC does notmean the company was awarded the contract to undertake the rehabilitation and management of the Asinplants.Other stages, among them the negotiations for the terms of reference, will still have to be complied with.

Beneco has been keen on rehabilitating and operating the Asin hydro plants when the tripartite agreement between the city, the Baguio Water District, and Hedcor lapsed in 2006.

Beneco interim board of directors president Steve Cating said the recent financial studies done by the distribution utility showed the rehabilitation of the Asin hydro plants would require P1 billion.

Cating said the financial requirement of Asin is based on Beneco’s experience in rolling out the Man-asok hydro power plants project in Buguias, Benguet.

Licoben, for his part, said Beneco is not closing its doors on Asin, saying Repower has signified its intent to engage with the distribution utility for a possible partnership.

“We do not want to preempt the outcome of Repower’s proposal, especially that the company has been in touch with us to discuss for possible ventures in the future,” he said.

He added Beneco’s position has always been: Whoever secures the contract to rehabilitate and operate the Asin hydro plants, the community should always be the one to benefit from it.

Since the tripartite agreement between the city government, the BWD, and Hedcor lapsed in 2006, Beneco has been submitting proposals to the take on the plants’ operation and management.

When it participated in the bidding in 2007, Beneco was disqualified because it didnot meet the requirement that it should be registered with the Cooperative Development Authority.

Because no bidder won, the city government operated the power plants, but was ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission to cease because it did not secure a Certificate of Compliance from the regulating body.

When city re-bid the project,Kaltimex eventually won the contract in 2014, but the company failed to fulfill its obligations until the city terminated its contract in 2021, when it still failed to deliver the terms in the compromise deal it entered with the city. – Jane B. Cadalig