May 27, 2024

The first batch of new directors of the Benguet Electric Cooperative who were elected yesterday (April 20) will assume their posts with more responsibilities but less of the “perks” their predecessors enjoyed.

Beneco Task Force Head Steve Cating said in a press conference on April 16 among the first agenda of the members of the task force when they were appointed in January 2023 was to remove these benefits such as fuel allowance, eliminating the discretionary authority of directors in identifying which projects will be funded through the utility’s corporate social responsibility fund (CSR), and reduction of per diem allowances per meeting.

In compliance with a memorandum from the National Electrification Administration, Cating said CSR projects has been transferred to the Institutional Services Department of Beneco, which has been tasked to screen applications based on a checklist covering only 10 areas of coverage.

Previously, each of the 11 directors were allotted P500,000 each annually CSR funds, disbursement of which was at the discretion of the director.

In the reforms instituted when NEA took over, Institutional Services Department Manager and in-house legal counsel Delmar Cariño said member-consumers who need assistance from the Beneco will have to submit a proposal based on coverage areas such as environment, education, youth welfare, among others.

Cariño said the recalibrated CSR program aims to address the impression that Beneco has become some sort of a welfare agency and a platform for directors who intend to seek an elective post using the CSR funds of the utility.

“The CSR programs should be sustainable,” Cariño said confirming that donation of plastic chairs, tents, and other materials that also bear the name of the Beneco director who facilitated the release of the CSR funds, will be discontinued.

A memorandum of agreement between the Beneco and the group or individual asking for assistance will be one of the requirements prior to the release of the CSR fund. 

Beneco will also retain the medical aid for its members but this will be on a case-to-case basis – no longer a regular part of the CSR program, Cariño added.

The election is the first after the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed the immediate past directors to seat on a holdover capacity due to the restrictions imposed by the government to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Cariño and Cating said the election of the new set of BOD is crucial because as the policy-making body of Beneco, they have a lot of concerns to address.

Functions of the BOD include policy direction, oversight and advisory body to approve management actions and plans, and represent members and consumers.

Cariño has outlined the challenges the new BOD will face during their tenure: restore confidence on the business community, local government units, member-consumers, completion of the power supply agreement within the year, and adjust to the changes and challenges in the power industry such as in the regulatory, technical, financial, technical aspects.

Franchise renewal, pursuit of the use of renewable energy, and a long-term power supply contract are the other matters that the new BOD has to address, Cating added.

In this year’s election, the NEA and Beneco have drawn up stringent criteria to screen potential BOD candidates.

For the election for districts 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, there were 18 candidates who signified to run for directors but 10 were disqualified, leaving only eight candidates. Failure of election has been declared for District 6, there being no candidate who qualified.

Cariño said a special election for District 6 will be held at the same time as the election of the second batch of directors on September.

The new set of directors will be joining the five members of the task force. – Rimaliza A. Opiña