By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) general manager criticized Undersecretary Petronillo Ilagan of the Department of Energy (DOE) for blocking the condonation of the cooperative’s loan for barrio electrification.
Beneco General Manager Gerardo Verzosa said Ilagan wants “to compel” Beneco to pay despite congress’ decision to allocate funds for the payment of the cooperative’s loan. He said the fund appropriation amounts to P78.4 million and was included in the National Electrification Administration (NEA) 2018 budget.
But in a DOE memorandum Ilagan issued last March, he directed NEA to come out with a report on the legal implications of the inclusion of Beneco’s liability in the agency’s 2018 budget.
NEA, in its reply to DOE’s memorandum said that the inclusion of Beneco’s loan in the agency’s 2018 budget is consistent with its mandate of ensuring electrification in the countryside. The agency cited provisions of Republic Act N. 10531 otherwise known as the National Electrification Administration Decree as their basis for condoning Beneco’s unpaid loan.
NEA explained that the P78.4 million was earmarked as assistance to Beneco as part of the cooperative’s barrio electrification program.
NEA said Beneco will immediately remit the funds to agency to settle the cooperatives balance in its loan obligations to the agency.
Verzosa said Beneco acquired a loan from the NEA in 2007 for the electrification of Benguet villages, four years before former President Benigno Simeon Aquino administration appropriated funds for such projects.
Verzosa said that the Aquino administration appropriated funds for rural electrification because the electric cooperatives failed to live up to their reason of existence, “to ensure electrification to the barrios”. He said that electric cooperatives are not that keen on electrifying the rural areas because their return of investment is way lower as compared to the urban and town centers.
“We applied for a loan because we wanted to fulfill our duty of bringing electricity to the barrios. Had we known that President Aquino would identify barrio electrification among his priority programs we would have not applied for a loan,” Verzosa said.
Verzosa said Beneco was the only cooperative that applied for a loan with NEA for barrio electrification.
“And now, our member-consumers will be punished by paying for a loan which was given free to other cooperatives who did not pursue barrio electrification until government offered to shoulder the expenses, is that not unfair?” Verzosa queried. # nordis.net