BAGUIO CITY – Administrator Edgardo Masongsong of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) lashed out at officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for slashing the budget earmarked for the implementation of the government’s rural electrification program to only P18 billion next year.
Masongsong, who was the guest of honor and speaker during the 37th Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) held at the Baguio City National High School auditorium last Saturday, disclosed NEA was requested to prepare the required budget for the energization of some 5,250 sitios around the country for next year which was pegged at P5.2 billion.
However, the NEA chief claimed he was informed by budget officials that the proposed rural electrification budget was initially reduced to P3.6 billion after the evaluation done by the budget department on their proposal.
Based on NEA records, there are still more than 23,400 sitios in the different parts of the country that should be energized through the help of the 121 rural electric cooperatives.
Further, Masongsong noted of the 20 million households that should be enjoying the benefits of quality electricity, only 11.7 million households have electrical connections.
“We do not know how can we complete the energization of the increasing number of sitios if our budget will be again slashed further during the budget deliberations. We just pin our hopes to our lawmakers to help us lobby with concerned government agencies to significantly increase the programmed funds for rural electrification so that we can do more for our fellow Filipinos living in the countryside,” Masongsong stressed.
He commended BENECO for having spearheaded the implementation of the rural electrification program among the rural electric cooperatives way back in 2007 when it obtained a P100-million loan from NEA to energize at least 134 sitios within its franchise area.
According to him, BENECO’s rural electrification program was done much earlier than the government’s sitio electrification program which was initiated in 2011 when the government then infused funds through the NEA to electrify unenergized non-viable communities within the franchise areas of the 121 electric cooperatives in the different parts of the country.
Masongsong argued the outright decision of the budget department to slash the NEA budget for rural electrification will definitely compromise the commitments of President Rodrigo Duterte for the implementation of energization projects that will guarantee the availability of power to the millions of households in the various parts of the franchise areas of electric cooperatives.
He underscored the availability of electricity in rural areas will translate to the improved living condition of people because investors will be enticed to put up their businesses in the countryside that will also result in the creation of jobs and increased sources of livelihood that will result to better quality of life for everyone, the aspiration of every Filipino.