BAGUIO CITY – More than seventy percent of the over 3,158 sitios in the franchise area of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) in Baguio City and Benguet have been energized pursuant to the government’s mandate for rural electrification over the past five decades.
BENECO Network Services Department Manager Ramil Rifane reported that of the 3,158 sitios in Baguio and Benguet, the electric cooperative energized some 2,515 sitios over the past several decades using various sources of funds.
He added that of the more than 579 sitios still unenergized, 310 villages had already been inspected by their technical personnel and the same had been submitted to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for funding, while some 269 sitios in Benguet are yet for inspection and preparation of the required programs of request for future funding.
For this year, the NEA earmarked some P80 million for the continuous implementation of the government’s Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) with 80 priority sitios in the different municipalities identified to be energized.
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However, he admitted due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic, the provided funds had been reverted to the general fund and appropriated for the government’s COVID-19 response operations thus stalling the realization of the programmed energization projects.
According to him, the NEA committed to source out the funds to push through with the project, or include the same in the agency’s list of priority energization projects for funding under next year’s annual budget aside from adding more sitios to be energized.
The pre-construction activity for the implementation of the programmed energization projects was supposed to start early this year but was overtaken by events following the declaration of the Luzonwide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to combat the rapid spread of the deadly virus in the different communities around the country.
In 2007, BENECO obtained a P100-million loan from NEA purposely for the energization of various sitios in its franchise area as part of its efforts to fulfill its mandate for the energization of non-viable areas in Benguet since the same is part of its obligation to implement the government’s rural electrification program.
Despite having to maintain the power supply to numerous non-viable areas in its franchise area, BENECO has maintained cheap and affordable power to its member-consumer-owners with its lower residential and commercial power rates compared to much bigger electric cooperatives and private power distribution utilities that have larger number of customers and wider area of coverage.
Further, BENECO has maintained a single digit systems loss, much lower than the 14 percent threshold under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) as its monthly systems loss ranges from 8-9 percent only.
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis
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