June 3, 2023

The Benguet Electric Cooperative is on its way to becoming a stock entity under the Cooperative Development Authority.

Member-consumers have ratified Beneco’s articles of cooperation and revised by-laws, a requirement for its conversion from its non-stock, non-profit setup into a regular stock cooperative.

With the ratification, which was done during the Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) on Oct. 2, the member-consumers approved the collection of P500 share capital contribution from each member.

The collection of share capital contribution is based on the account names appearing on the bill, which means member-consumers who own multiple meters will only pay P500 as minimum share contribution, explained Beneco Institutional Services Department Manager Delmar Cariño.

Beneco registered with the CDA in November last year, but needed to have its articles of cooperation and revised by-laws ratified by the general assembly, including the collection of share capital contribution to allow its conversion into a regular stock cooperative.

The P500 share capital contribution will be collected through the monthly bill and will be on an installment basis.

Among other advantages, Beneco’s conversion to a stock cooperative allows the electric distribution utility to engage in other business opportunities, enjoy tax exemptions, and will be able to provide dividends to the member-consumers, a benefit that is not possible with Beneco’s current set up as a non-stock, non-profit entity.

Also approved during the AGMA is the increase in membership fee from P5 to P100.

Member-consumers have also ratified various resolutions passed by the Beneco Board of Directors (BOD), foremost of which is Resolution 90 s. 2020 that appointed Engr. Melchor Licoben as general manager upon the effectivity of the retirement of the late general manager Gerardo Verzosa.

The general assembly also ratified Beneco BOD Resolution 151 s. 2021 that rejected the appointment by the National Electrification Administration-Board of Administrators of Atty. Ana Maria Paz Rafael as GM, as contained in NEA-BOA Resolution 87 s. 2021.

Member-consumers also ratified a resolution that expelled Rocky Aliping, Enrique Moresto, James Aclopen, and Luke Gomeyac as Beneco directors and perpetually disqualify them from running as district representatives.

The AGMA pushed through amidst the suspension order issued by NEA against Licoben, BOD president Esteban Somngi, and Directors Peter Busaing, Jeffred Acop, Robert Valentine, Mike Maspil, Jonathan Obar, and Josephine Tuling.

Before the order of business proceeded however, the participants approved the omnibus motion of member-consumer Van Oliver Dicang for the general assembly to affirm Somngi’s authority to preside over the AGMA, affirm the authority of the six BODs to continue discharging their duties as BODs, and ratify all the acts and decisions of the BOD, including the appointment of Licoben as Beneco chief.

Dicang made the motion, saying there was a need to “eliminate the cloud of doubt” on Somngi’s authority to preside over the AGMA because of NEA’s suspension order, which was served on Sept. 28, three days before the AGMA, and the designation of a project supervisor for Beneco.

Dicang said NEA’s power to suspend BODs of electric cooperatives operates only as an exercise of supervision and not control.

“There is distinction. Supervision is not tantamount to control. It does not carry the power to annul decisions of the BOD, which do not violate the law. What decision did the Beneco BOD make against the law, which could be a basis for the disciplinary action?” Dicang said.

He added the designation of a project supervisor is not warranted because Beneco is not an ailing coop; neither is it on the verge of bankruptcy.

“It seems NEA exercised its power illegitimately. As member-consumers, we have to disregard this. It was our power, exercised through the duly elected BODs, that was supplanted by this NEA decision. I make an omnibus motion to eliminate the cloud of doubt that NEA’s action created, disturbing our coop’s operations, inspiring violence and public disorder, polarizing the people of Baguio and Benguet.”

The preventive suspension order and eventual designation of Atty. Omar Mayo from the NEA Legal Services Office as project supervisor stemmed from the administrative complaint filed by Rafael against Licoben and the seven BODs for their refusal to acknowledge her appointment as Beneco GM, pursuant to NEA-BOA Resolution 87 s. 2021. – Jane B. Cadalig