December 10, 2022

Benguet Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Recto Alawas has urged local officials to continue making a stand for the Benguet Electric Cooperative. 

Alawas, in a privilege speech in the provincial board’sregular session on Nov. 14, said the unresolved leadership debacle in Beneco continues to affect the performance of the cooperative, which in turn, affects the members and consumers.

The National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators has appointed Atty. Marie Rafael as general manager for Beneco which led to the Oct. 18, 2021 attempted takeover by NEA of the Beneco headquarters at South Drive, Baguio City.

Three days later, hundreds of Benecoemployees, members and concerned consumers stormed and took back the headquarters, leading Rafael and her camp to leave the premises and set up office outside the Beneco office. 

He said NEA’s actions led some of Beneco’s depository banks to freeze the accounts of the cooperative which “paralyzed its ability to pay its obligations particularly to Team Energy which in the process will court the possibility of it to cut off the power it supplies to Beneco’s consumers.”

Team Energy is one of the largest independent power producers in the country with more than 2,000 megawatt of installed generating capacity nationwide.  

He said Beneco has failed to fully pay its power bills starting April 2022, which is the first time in three decades that it was late in paying its bill.

Alawas reiterated his stand in supporting the current leadership of Engr. Melchor Licoben of Beneco, who is the duly-appointed                                           manager as confirmed by the seven board of directors during the Oct. 2, 2021 annual general membership assembly.

He called on the NEA to withdraw its appointment of Rafael as the general manager and for  NEA Administrator Emmanuel Juaneza and Cooperative Development Authority Chairman Encabo to tender their courtesy resignations.

“The Beneco is not a political organization and the general manager is not a commodity for sale but functions as a service organization that must be protected by those who are supposed to have a mandate of assisting and developing electric cooperatives for stability and not to stir havoc or disorientation,” Alawas said.

A day after Alawas’ privilege speech, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has appointed Antonio Mariano Almeda as the new NEA administrator succeeding Juaneza.

Alawas also requested Congress to give a zero or one peso budget to the NEA since its role of electrifying the provinces has already been achieved.

The issues and concerns raised in the privilege speech were referred to the committees on mining and energy, cooperatives, and public utilities while a copy of the speech will also be forwarded to Office of the President. – Ofelia C. Empian