Gatchalian wants probe on impact of BENECO-NEA standoff

Gatchalian wants probe on impact of BENECO-NEA standoff

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — 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.

Gatchalian 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,”
Gatchalian 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.

“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,” the Senate Energy
Committee Chairperson said.

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. (ai/mtvn)

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