BENECO GM says coop is right on track

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The Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), now expecting a surge in power demand as Baguio City and Benguet slowly crawls to the new normal, is ready to marshal all its resources to hurdle all regulatory and industry demands for distribution utilities in the next few years.

Melchor Licoben, BENECO’s officer-in-charge general manager, accepted on Tuesday the challenge hurled by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for all the country’s 121 electric cooperatives (ECs) to piggyback on the national government’s thrust to let local economies absorb the influx of idled employees from the metropolis.

Edgardo Masongsong, NEA administrator, keynoted the online NEA-EC Strategic Thinking Conference from July 21-23 and said the role of ECs have become more prominent today when the attention of national growth shifts to rural development.

“The mandate for ECs now must range from sitio energization to rural development and consumer empowerment,” he said.

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Licoben, whose appointment by the EC’s board of directors as general manager has been backed by various local government units in Baguio and Benguet, said BENECO is studying the EC’s possible put up of a cooperative radio station and an electric cooperative bank.

Masongsong earlier encouraged the ECs to seriously consider the two options since, he said, it is high time the ECs must diversify their business to be able to survive and gain the loyalty of their consumers.

Licoben said he will bring the proposals to the board for consideration. “We are about to finish our mini hydro project in Buguias and we are ready to explore other alternatives,” he said.

The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA), the umbrella organization of the country’s ECs, passed a resolution on July 17 strongly supporting the appointment of Licoben as full time GM of BENECO.

Earlier, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC), the largest media organization in the Cordillera, also passed a resolution throwing its support to the 52 year old GM who has served the EC close to 30 years already.

“We have tweaked our strategies to adopt to the change of times. We have finished our business continuity plan to respond to the adverse impact of the pandemic and certainly, the NEA recommendations are well within our radar,” he said.

Licoben added that the EC is also in the thick of completing the regulatory requirements for its proposed one megawatt solar facility in Tabaan Sur, Tuba, the first among BENECO’s solar projects that are in the pipeline.

Licoben said plans are afoot for ensuring the steady supply of electricity with less unscheduled power interruption to address the growing demand for power owing to the government’s Balik Probinsya program.

By Delmar Carino

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