BENECO Catch 22

BENECO Catch 22

BENECO is heading towards a disaster. Not the kind caused by a natural calamity. Or caused by mismanagement of Cooperative finances and resources, and not even one caused by bankruptcy. Worse than all these combined is what the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) is up against.

In banking terms, the situation Beneco finds itself in is called insolvency. Simply put, the cooperative cannot pay off its debts. In particular, Beneco can’t pay its obligation with Team Energy, from which it sources its electricity. It isn’t because Beneco does not have the money, it has millions of it in the banks. Beneco can’t pay its creditors because of the predicament caused by the National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA).

Most of you already know the controversy but for those still in the dark (no pun intended) allow us to enlighten you (pun intended). The NEA-BOA appointed a new general manager to replace its retired General Manager (GM). The NEA-BOA did so, even though the Beneco Board of Directors (BOD) did not announce a vacancy, The BOD did not announce the position vacant because a successor was already chosen in the person of Engr. Melchor Licoben.

Some say the NEA-BOA overreached its authority when it insisted that its appointment order be respected by the BOD and rank and file employees. In short, both sides stood their grounds and refused to budge, well except for four BOD members who opted to jump the Beneco ship and side with the NEA-BOA appointee.

Of course, both sides of this controversy went to the courts to settle the matter. However, the banks where Beneco’s millions, save for one, are deposited decided (some say coerced) to freeze these monetary assets of the cooperative until the matter is cleared (which in this country could mean decades) Included in the frozen assets are the money meant to pay its supplier, Team Energy.

This situation has dire consequences for Beneco’s clients in Baguio City and Benguet province. Team Energy could decide to cut off power to Beneco if the latter still cannot pay its obligations, and worse, make it difficult for Beneco to secure a deal similar to what it enjoys today – and as a consequence, Beneco provides the cheapest energy rates for its consumers.

The entire drama, and the ensuing commotion, could have been aborted had the NEA-BOA stuck to its mandate and not dip its collective fingers into Beneco. Sure, it can send a Project Supervisor (PS) for electric cooperatives but only those ailing or under-performing.

As a Triple-A electric cooperative, Beneco hardly needs this kind of attention from the NEA-BOA. The fact that it can provide the cheapest rates among all on-grid electric cooperatives in the country, it recently received the Ace of Tariff Award from the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association rising above 93 other on-grid Electric Cooperatives, speaks well of the management of the cooperative (it also recently hurdled its ISO 19001:2022 recertification).

There is absolutely no reason for the NEA-BOA to meddle in the GM affairs of Beneco… except perhaps an insidious one?


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