NEA under fire over Beneco leadership

Senator Rafael Tulfo slammed officials of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) Wednesday for ignoring the right of Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) to self-governance in unilaterally replacing its general manager (GM) earlier elected by Beneco’s board of directors.

At the Senate Committee on Energy organizational meeting, Tulfo vowed to review NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035, said to have been used to justify its allegedly anomalous appointment of Maria Paz Rafael as Beneco’s general manager.

“As far as I m concerned, walang problema ang Beneco—mababa ang kanilang singil, maganda ang performance at walang brownouts sa areas na sakop nila. Ngayon, bakit pinalitan ng NEA ang general manager elected by their board of directors? Yan ang tanong ng consumers ng Beneco. ‘Ika nga sa kasabihan, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

Tulfo added: “Yung memorandum order, I have to look into that, I will change that. It has to be changed,” signaling intent to assert his prerogative as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, noting how the memorandum is adversely affecting cooperatives’ right to elect its leader.

This, he said, recalled a previous incident when the Beneco’s board of directors elected Melchor Licoben as GM after the April 2020 retirement of the late Gerardo P. Versoza. However, NEA, which supervises electric cooperatives, also appointed Ana Maria Paz Rafael as the cooperative’s GM.

Responding to Tulfo’s query on the basis of the appointment of Rafael, NEA Deputy Administrator for Legal Services Rossan Rosero-Lee repeatedly invoked Memorandum No. 2017-035, which provides for the procedures on the selection of general managers for electric cooperatives

Tulfo, in turn, admitted that he is concerned with how easy it is for NEA to reject and replace a GM elected by the cooperatives’ board of directors even if such cooperative is not ailing.

“Dito tayo nagkaka-problema dahil kahit pala nakapili na ang board of directors ng kanilang general manager, pwede pala itong randomly palitan ni NEA. In a way, tinatanggalan ng halaga ang selection process ng isang kooperatiba.”

Tulfo suggested that instead of interfering with cooperatives with good performance like BENECO, “the NEA can do better by helping ailing cooperatives.”

The senator added that NEA should focus on investigating if electric cooperatives have enough technical and enough financial capacity to continue operations.

“Makialam po kayo kapag may problema o ailing ang isang kooperatiba and see how you can fix the problem, pero kung walang problema and the operation is good, huwag ninyong pakialaman.”


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