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SENATE TO PROBE BENGUET ELECTRIC COOP MESS – GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian pressed the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to ensure the continuing and uninterrupted supply of electricity in Baguio City and all 13 towns in Benguet province amid the leadership crisis in Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO).

This, even as NEA Administrator Emmanuel Juaneza gave word to Gatchalian in a recent budget hearing at the Senate that “there’s no more trouble in the area insofar as BENECO is concerned”.

The veteran legislator is preparing to file a Senate resolution on the matter.

“Our concern is stability in that area.”

“Our concern is stability in that area. Baguio is a highly urbanized city and we don’t want them to experience brownouts because of this commotion,” the seasoned lawmaker said during the latest virtual hearing conducted by the Senate Finance Subcommittee E, adding that this type of incident creates uncertainty in the minds of consumers.

The senator, before tackling the proposed P3.896-billion corporate operating budget of NEA for 2022, brought up the viral video reported by various news websites on what appeared to be a takeover of BENECO early morning of October 18 and which showed police officers storming the rural electric utility’s office to impose preventive suspension orders on its president, seven board members, and general manager after they refused to recognize the new general manager appointed by the NEA.

Juaneza, who is just a few days into the office, stood ground on NEA’s appointment of lawyer Ana Maria Rafael as general manager vice acting GM Melchor Licoben and told Gatchalian that NEA will no longer disrupt BENECO’s operations.

“An internal analysis of the BENECO’s current mess showed that it was NEA that did not follow its own memorandum.”

“An internal analysis of the BENECO’s current mess showed that it was NEA that did not follow its own memorandum insofar as succession mechanism and selection process is concerned when it appointed the new general manager,” Gatchalian said.

The Senate Energy Committee Chairperson cited NEA Memorandum 2017-035, the revised policy on the selection, hiring, termination of service/suspension for GMs of electric cooperatives, saying that it clearly provides for the rule allowing BENECO’s board to select the GM of their choice and for NEA to step in only if the board rejects all pre-qualified applicants.

“We don’t want NEA, the supervisor of all ECs, to be imposing people over a well-run, functioning coop and that is not the intention of the law. The intention of the law is for the ECs to govern themselves and NEA will just step in during problematic times, if it’s badly managed or if it’s an ailing coop,” he further said.

“My plea to NEA is to review your own rules. Make sure that you follow your own rule and make sure that BENECO is running smoothly because we owe it to the people of Baguio. We have to make sure that electricity is continuously flowing to the homes of our constituents in Baguio,” Gatchalian concluded.

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