The House committee on legislative franchises approved in the committee level the consolidation of two bills that seek to renew the franchise of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), one of the country’s top performing electric cooperatives.
House Bill (HB) 6145 authored by Baguio City Rep. Mark Go and HB 9402 authored by Benguet Rep. Eric Yap were successively filed in the House of Representatives to facilitate the timely renewal of the franchise of BENECO that will expire in March 2028.
The committee hearing held at the Ramon Mitra Hall of the House of Representatives was attended by BENECO officials led by newly appointed General Manager Engr. Melchor S. Licoben and representatives of the Electric Cooperative–Member-Consumer-Owners (EC-MCO) United.
BENECO was issued the franchise for power distribution covering the 128 barangays of Baguio City and the 140 barangays of Benguet. It was also empowered to implement the government’s rural electrification program in non-viable areas within its franchise area.
MCOs claimed that the approval of the consolidation of the two bills in the committee level is definitely a giant step towards the realization of the renewal of BENECO’s franchise with the hope that the consolidated bill will no longer be routed to the House committee on rules so that its passage in the House will be immediately acted upon by the plenary.
Both bills seek to grant BENECO the franchise to operate power generation and power distribution within its franchise area to provide cheap and reliable power to its increasing number of consumers through the establishment of a reliable and quality distribution system.
BENECO was able to set the tone in the implementation of the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) when it acquired a P100 million loan from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) way back in 2007 to energize some 34 sitios within its franchise area.
In 2011, the government then institutionalized the SEP that paved the way for the allocation of multi-billion funds to bankroll the energization of more far flung villages in the different parts of the country to help in spurring the economic activities and sources of livelihood in the said communities.
BENECO was also able to significantly lower its power rates comparable to much larger private power distribution utilities and electric cooperatives that paved the way for it being conferred the Class AAA status as one of the tops performing rural electric cooperatives in the country.
However, BENECO’s status was downgraded to Class C after it encountered a leadership impasse in 2021 because of the appointment of an unqualified applicant as general manager that resulted in resistance not only from the employees but also from the MCOs.
The status of BENECO as a Class AA electric cooperative was reinstated several months ago after the NEA decided to temporarily oversee its operations while the search for the qualified general manager was underway that resulted in the eventual appointment of Engr. Licoben as its full pledged general manager.