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SENATE TO PROBE BENECO-NEA STANDOFF – GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a resolution calling for a full-blown inquiry into the management standoff between Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc. (BENECO) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Gatchalian noted that while reports showed that regular services of the electric cooperatives, which had been interrupted by the forcible takeover by NEA-appointed officials last October 18 to 20, has resumed, there is yet to be a final resolution on the issue between BENECO and NEA.

“BENECO is having difficulties in processing bank transactions.”

The veteran legislator found out that BENECO is having difficulties in processing bank transactions as some accredited banks do not acknowledge the signature of Engr. Melchor S. Licoben as BENECO’s general manager (GM).

“Kailangang maiwasan na magkaroon ng pagkaantala sa operasyon ng electric cooperative na maaaring magresulta sa brownouts sa Baguio City o saan man sa 13 bayan na sineserbisyuhan ng kumpanya,” the seasoned lawmaker said in filing Senate Resolution No. 945.

The issue stemmed from the disagreement between the NEA and BENECO board of directors (BOD) on who should be appointed as the new GM following the retirement of the late Gerry Versoza on April 30, 2020.

While the BENECO BOD issued three resolutions that named Licoben as the new GM, the NEA board of administrators (BOA) instead recommended Atty. Anna Marie Paz Rafael to the position.

What ensued saw the assumption of Rafael in the morning of October 18, 2021 with the aid of around 50 heavily armed members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), causing alarm among BENECO employees who were fearful for their lives and safety.

It also led to the closure of its office on October 18 to 19, leaving consumer concerns unattended.

“They have to make certain that the appointment of the GM is done in accordance with the current rules and regulations.”

“It is important to ensure the continuous and reliable electricity service within the franchise area of BENECO amid the ongoing disagreements between the NEA and BENECO on the appointment of its GM. They have to make certain that the appointment of the GM is done in accordance with the current rules and regulations,” said the Senate Energy Committee Chairperson.

Gatchalian took note of the memorandum dated 24 October 2017 issued by NEA on the selection of GMs. Memorandum No. 2017-035 entitled the Revised Policy on the Selection, Hiring, Termination of Services/Suspension for General Managers of Electric Cooperative (3rd Revision) provides that the BOD of an EC shall appoint its GM in accordance with guidelines set forth by the NEA.

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