December 6, 2023

The interim Benguet Electric Cooperative Board of Directors with the support of the National Electrification Administration has committed to bring Beneco back to its previous standing and normalcy.

During the cooperative’s 42nd Annual General Assembly in Baguio City on June 17, NEA Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda has committed to follow the NEA process and guidelines in fixing the situation of Beneco, which was relegated to category C status due to demerits resulting from the management power struggle last year.

He also announced that from category C and B, Beneco is upgraded to category double A and told the assembly they may expect the signing and transmittal of the certification last week.

He also told Baguio Rep. Mark Go to proceed with the inclusion of the certification in the bill the lawmaker has filed seeking for the renewal by Congress of Beneco’s franchise, which is set to expire in 2028.

Almeda has assured the Beneco member-consumers that before he leaves as project supervisor of Task Force Beneco, everything in the cooperative has already come back to normal.

In an interview with the Midland Courier, he said since Beneco underwent turmoil, the plan is first appoint a new regular general manager and then to elect a new 11-member BOD.

There is a need to first appoint the GM to fix the management and put what have been messed up back to order.

The interim BOD, headed by Steve Cating representing the business sector, recently opened the selection and appointment process for regular manager. Almeda said the process normally takes 60 to 90 days.

After a general manager is appointed, the interim board will immediately open the election of the regular BOD.

“We will make sure when the selection process for general manager is opened, ito ay naaayon sa batas, transparent at walang pwedeng makialam na pulitiko,” Almeda said.

He said the job to bring Beneco back to normal is not easy and therefore asked the stakeholders to be patient and respect the process for them to be able to accomplish their task.

For the interim board, Cating said they are tasked to address various challenges facing the cooperative.

Aside from the franchise renewal and threats of privatization, they have to deal with the impending power rate adjustments when Beneco’s power supply agreement with supplier Team Energy expires in March 2024.

He said the 20-year contract resulted in one of the lowest electricity rates in the country but unfortunately they will not be able to get the same cheaper rates since energy rates have been increasing over the past several years.

The challenge, he said, is to find a new long-term supply contract that will allow Beneco consumers to still enjoy the lowest rates, if not the same with the previous rates.

Cating said another challenge is the impending rate adjustment with Team Energy, with which Beneco has a billing dispute involving P680 million that will have to be charged back to the consumers.

Another billing adjustment is with Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. where Beneco has a billing liability of about P300M that will also have to be passed on to the consumers.

Beneco is also working its registration with the Cooperative Development Authority that has not been perfected yet, which means it is still paying taxes despite being a utility entity that should be tax-exempt.

They have also started the process for the appointment of a regular manager and election of regular BOD.

“From operations standpoint, Beneco is back to normal. We are not worried about these challenges since these are just issues that we need to fix. There have been delays in fixing these in the past and the interim board has been required to address these as soon as possible,” Cating said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana