The installation of streetlights in urban and rural areas around the country has become an important facet to deter the occurrence of crimes during the night and maintain decent law and order in the different communities. The rapid advancement in technology also paved the way to having energy efficient and environmentally-friendly fixtures that help in the energy conservation efforts and strike a balance in the state of the environment in certain areas in the country.
In Baguio city and Benguet, the management and operation of the thousands of streetlight fixtures was previously lodged with the local government. At a certain point in time, the same was turned over to the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), the franchise holder of power distribution in the said areas, primarily because of the availability of its maintenance crew round the clock. It also has more than enough supply of fixtures to immediately replace busted bulbs where the streetlights have been installed.
Lately, the discovery of the Light Emitting Diode (LED), an energy efficient and environmentally-friendly technology, has local governments wanting to shift to LED to save excessive government expenditures on the maintenance and operation of streetlights, and such savings could be used by the local governments for their other priority projects and improve the delivery of basic services to their constituents. The LED technology has enticed many local governments around the country to use the same which is much more efficient and effective than the traditional one that paved the way for more local officials to consider replacing their streetlight fixtures to LED.
In 2011, the Baguio City council passed Resolution No. 446, series of 2011 that adopted the terms of reference for the conversion of the city’s streetlights from the traditional bulbs to LED as part of the government’s plan to shift to energy efficient and environmentally-friendly technology that have, time and again, been proven effective in generating savings. Subsequently, the local government and BENECO entered into an agreement for the latter to temporarily maintain and operate the city’s streetlights until the city converts its over 8,640 streetlights to LED on the condition the city will pay to the cooperative the amount equivalent to 12 burning hours from the previous 10 burning hours. Residents were elated because of the efficient service rendered by the cooperative in responding to calls to replace busted streetlights in the different parts of Baguio and Benguet over the past several years.
Because of the huge losses BENECO incurred in maintaining and operating the streetlights in Baguio and Benguet for the past several years, the cooperative decided to unilaterally turnover to the local governments of Baguio and Benguet the said duty. If local governments are still interested that BENECO maintain the city’s streetlights, they are obliged to pay the amount corresponding to the services rendered for the said purpose which will be an added cost to the said local governments.
Since the turnover of the maintenance and operation of the streetlights to the local governments concerned, complaints on the alleged snail-paced replacement of busted streetlight bulbs, among other maintenance work, started to rapidly increase as the local government does not have the personnel and replacement bulbs as the turnover was done in the middle of the year when the budgeting for such purpose was already completed.
Both BENECO and the local governments are supposed to render public service to the people. Whatever their differences they have should not compromise the welfare of the people. They must jointly seek for a timely solution to this issue.
Local governments should consider the proposal of BENECO that in case the cooperative is to maintain and operate their streetlights, local officials must appropriate funds for the cost of their services and also invest on the fixtures to replace busted or non-serviceable ones.
The primordial consideration in this issue is the welfare of the people most of who are also members of the cooperative who had subsidised the operations and maintenance of the streetlights for years but should not suffer now due to the contention of the concerned parties, what matters will be the ensured lighting of the streetlights for the overall safety of the people in the barangays.
If local governments are inclined to convert their streetlights to LED, then the same must push through the soonest because the safety of the people should not be compromised. Both BENECO and the local governments should closely work together to ensure a degree of security for residents of Baguio and Benguet by ensuring well-lighted communities that help deter the commission of crimes.
We believe both parties must realise they are endowed with public service with the interest of the majority of the people prevailing over all other interests.