■ Rimaliza A. Opiña
Erstwhile Benguet Electric Cooperative assistant general manager, Engr. Melchor S. Licoben, is now officially the general manager of the utility, after the National Electrification Administration recommended him for the top position.
The Beneco Board of Directors interim president Steve Ca-ting said Licoben was their top choice.
Licoben was first appointed in 2020 by the former BOD of the Beneco as successor of Gerardo Verzosa, who retired also in the same year.
However, Licoben was not able to fully assume as general manager when in 2021, the NEA appointed former Presidential Communications Office assistant secretary Ana Maria Paz Rafael as Beneco general manager.
The NEA’s move triggered a dispute between the NEA and Rafael on one hand and the employees and member-consumers on the other and which resulted in a management impasse.
The matter also reached the court where Licoben sought the issuance of resolution on who should be recognized as the rightful general manager.
The petition is pending at the Court of Appeals.
Other events happened since then such as the NEA’s revocation of Rafael’s appointment, NEA takeover of Beneco, and removal of all directors.
Employees hailed Licoben’s appointment and passed a resolution thanking the NEA and the BOD for appointing a manager whom they fully recognize and support.
Despite his tumultuous ascent, Licoben, on Nov. 8, announced his first order of business – the renewal of Beneco’s franchise.
“My appointment is just the beginning. We still have so much to do. We still have to secure our existence for the next 50 years,” Licoben told employees in his message of gratitude.
Beneco’s franchise ends on March 2028 but Baguio Rep. Mark Go has filed House Bill 6145 that seeks to renew the franchise.
Licoben has been with Beneco since 1991.