February 2, 2023

KAPANGAN, Benguet – Rural electrification in Sitio Toplac, Barangay Pudong, this town proceeded this month with the energization of a public primary school and at least 32 residential houses by a team of linemen-electricians of the Benguet Electric Cooperative.
The project, which falls under the Sitio Energization program (SEP) of the government, connects remote areas to the main electric grid. The electric distribution utilities were mandated by law the primary responsibility of energizing rural communities despite a shortage of funds and a slim chance of regaining expenses.
The SEP consists of two components, the line and house wiring. In the case of Sitio Toplac, electrical wires, two bulb receptacles, and at least one wall outlet were fitted on each of the 32 houses and the primary school.
Toplac Barrio School caters to schoolchildren belonging to more than 30 households in one of the remotest sitios above the Amburayan River in this town. The distant sitio of vegetable farmers could be reached after a three-hour hike, said Punong Barangay Aprie Cab-ad during the switch-on ceremony last Feb. 18.
Beneco General Manager Engr. Melchor S. Licoben led the switch-on activity along with Board of Directors Robert Valentin, Mike Maspil, and Josephine Tuling; former Benguet State University vice president Silver Aben, and member-consumer-owners from Baguio City.
The Beneco team of Chris Gonzales and Network Service Department Manager Engr. Ramil Rifani said around 52 electric posts were already installed since 2020 but work was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March that year.
Beneco linemen had attached wires on the 52 steel posts that were previously erected on mountainous terrain prior to installing the electrical fittings for the houses, the Beneco team said. Nine sitios in barangays Pudong and Sagubo benefited from the SEP.
The BODs explained Beneco’s electrification fund was reduced because P58 million of the money was illicitly withdrawn by individuals trying to take over the management of the utility.
Maspil said the takeover attempt could be a prelude to privatization, which is disadvantageous to the real owners of the utility, none other than the paying member-consumers of Beneco.
On behalf of the Beneco team, Licoben thanked the resident-farmers of Pudong and Sagubo for their patience in waiting for their houses to be energized, recognizing them further as new owners of Beneco.
School teacher Jasper Santiago and Councilor Marcelo Tayaban acknowledged the difficulty and cost in providing electricity for houses in far-flung communities, and thanked the Beneco workers and officials for their efforts.
Beneco, which was recently registered with the Cooperative Development Authority, has more than 600 sitios in its franchise area left to be energized. These are the sitios in Sablan, Tuba, Itogon, Bokod, Kabayan, Tublay, Atok, Kibungan, Bakun, Buguias, and Mankayan.
The electric distribution utility needs at least half a billion pesos to fully energize Benguet before moving to the next program, which is internet connectivity, Licoben said.
Baguio, which is inside the franchise area, has been totally energized. – March Fianza