LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Some 206 sitios with a total number of 1,914 consumers in the 13 towns of this vegetable-producing province were energized through the over P188 million released by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) for the implementation of the government’s Sitio Energization Program (SEP) over the past three years.
Engr. Melchor Licoben, manager of BENECO’s engineering department, said the program suffered a setback in the province last year because no sitio was energized because the NEA unilaterally reduced the cost of sitio energization which was not applicable in the franchise area of the rural electric cooperative due to the existing mountainous terrain among other factors.
“The reduction of the cost of energization is currently under appeal with the NEA and we are optimistic that higher authorities will bring back the original cost of sitio energization so that we will be able to implement our backlag last year and the programmed sitios to be energized this year,” Licoben stressed
He explained the franchise area of BENECO, especially in Benguet, is considered to be unique compared to the other franchise areas of other cooperatives because of the mountainous terrain and the provision of power to non-viable sitios.
According to Engr. Licoben, bringing power to the countryside is really costly but rural electric cooperatives are mandated to bring electricity even to remote communities that tend to entail huge financial requirements.
“Sitio energization is a continuing process because as we bring the power lines to remote villages, communities usually sprout along the way,” Licoben said.
The BENECO official said local officials and residents in the province’s far flung villages should be grateful to the Aquino administration for embarking on a long-term sitio energization program which has already brought electricity to numerous villages and have played a key role in improving economic activities in the said areas.
In 2011, the national government released around P52.9 million for the initial implementation of the program in the province followed by around P97.7 million in 2012 before dropping to approximately P37.7 million in 2013.
Licoben explained requests for sition energization usually emanates from the barangay officials concerned because they are the ones knowledgeable in their areas of jurisdiction before technical personnel of BENECO will conduct verification of the places that are supposed to be energized to determine the feasibility of bringing the power to the identified area.
Upon the completion of the technical inspection, he added the proposal will be subsequently submitted to NEA for validation and determination of the availability of budget to be used for the project.
Licoben asserted BENECO remains committed to its mandate of continuously bringing electricity to the countryside as part of its service-oriented responsibility of sustaining quality and reliable power under an efficient and effective system in order to attract the influx of more economic activities in the countryside.
He appealed to barangay officials and residents of the sitios which were supposed to be energized but were put on hold to be patient in waiting for the project. By Dexter A. See