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  • Jul 27, 2020

The need for education on electric rates

We expect that the recent resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan of La Trinidad, Benguet requesting BENECO to postpone any power rate increase due to the pandemic is not the last to come from our local government units.

Understandably, the town's officials are mindful of the adverse impact of a power rate increase on their constituents. The legislative measure is their way of showing their concern for the people. But what if the said increase is not really the increase per se a layman would perceive? What if the said increase are actually adjustments that are embedded in a highly complicated and technically confusing industry?

Our plea is that please give us an audience. There really is a need for further education on the mechanics of electric rates in the country. Given the industry's stakeholders and various regulatory compliances, threshing out how power rates go by indeed becomes the call of the day.

We lament the Sangguniang Bayan resolution of the country' Strawberry Capital since while it boldly enjoined the ERC and the Benguet provincial Government to its cause, there was no single statement of any intention to summon or invite BENECO to explain. We, too, deserve due process. As the only distribution utility in Baguio City and Benguet since 1973, we deserve a minute in the SP's valued time of citizen's hour.

As of this writing, BENECO's official reply to the SB's Resolution has already been delivered. The reply dissected the components of the monthly bill issued to our member consumers in a bid to fully explain what Pass On and Pass Through charges are. The bottom line is that the reported increase is not the making of the electric cooperative but due to the quirks in the automatic adjustments in the generation charges and the resumption of the collection of the Feed-in-Tariff Allowance. All these matters are approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

BENECO did neither increase nor intend to increase its rates. That's for the record. The increase are adjustments in the Pass Through charges which is beyond the control of the electric cooperative.

We are afraid that the SB of La Trinidad and also Mayor Romeo Salda might get lost in the pages explaining the rates. This is why we clamor for an audience so that we could come and humbly explain those 25 to 27 items in the electric bill.

The rates will not be appreciated overnight. But at least the opportunity to be given to BENECO officials to talk will be good start. This is not only for the municipality. All LGUs of the 13 towns of Benguet are encouraged to invite BENECO to air its side right in the august halls of the Sannguniang Bayan.

This option is not mentioned in the resolutory portion of SB Resolution No. 200-2020 dated July 7, 2020. But it's not yet late. Just write us and we are most willing to report at your most convenient time. The LGU is also a registered consumer of the electric cooperative. The LGU thus deserves to be also part of BENECO's continuing information, education and communication (IEC) campaign.

What makes us sulk is that the Resolution was enacted based on reports. It said that "it was reported that the BENECO increased residential and commercial power rates in the province of Benguet and Baguio City in the month of June compared to similar rates in May because of an increase in transmission and other charges." Aren't resolutions supposed to be based on verified facts?

Anyway, our offer stands. Just let us in to set the record straight.