WHEN light bulbs flicker and the light goes out, we bet you have joined the community and yell in chorus: "brownout!" as darkness envelopes your world. Bashing the electric cooperative management follows!
Fallen trees and branches over power lines are the most common reasons why electric delivery service is disrupted. This normally happens during the rain and typhoon season from July to November.
Surely, the delayed restoration of the power supply is not solely the fault of the cooperatives. But admittedly, it is their responsibility. Those trees and branches that may fall on electric lines should have been removed during the dry season. Yet this is not done in most situations. No foresight by managers or perhaps no imagination at all would be the best critique.
The unscheduled power interruptions then take much longer because the electric power provider must secure a permit from the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cut and remove those fallen trees and branches over those primary or secondary power lines.
But how long can the cooperative secure that DENR permit? And supposing the brownouts happen on a weekend when the DENR office is closed; and the following Monday the signatory is absent or on an official trip elsewhere? Such a scenario is common in the countryside including cities like Baguio City where trees are valued by residents and robust alongside electric power lines.
In this connection, we tip our hat to the Baguio City council for putting its foot on the ground. Its members are beyond doubt knowledgeable of the community's current situations. It passed a resolution asking the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR) to act and immediately issue permits for the Benguet Electric Coop. (Beneco) to cut trees and branches that may fall on distribution power lines.
Other local government units, particularly in the Cordillera region, should echo the City Council sentiment and petition the DENR to reconsider her policies with respect to the clearing of power distribution lines by electric cooperatives.
When the rural electrification program was launched by President Marcos in the early 1970s, he authorized electric cooperatives through the National Electrification Administration (NEA) "right-of-ways" when installing power lines, among others, in private properties, agricultural farms, and forested lands.
This meant the clearing of obstacles along the way for the program of "total electrification" to succeed in 1987.
When and how the policy was changed is a bureaucratic hindrance for power distributors to provide better service to cooperative members and consumers. It has inconvenienced Juan dela Cruz and his household.
While quite some electric cooperatives are suffering from member-consumers' low outlook due to unscheduled power interruptions, and mediocre management policies and practices, BENECO is standing out. (For our readers outside the Cordillera, it stands for Benguet Electric Cooperative that covers the 13 towns of the province and Baguio City.) It made it to the list of leading electric cooperatives in the country.
Recently, its Board of Directors has approved the reduction of power rates by P0.58 per kilowatt-hour in October. It is a drop from P3.7375 per KWH in September to P3.3325. This goes for commercial rate from P6.7805 in September to P6.2431 for October. Industrial rates are also reduced.
In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, Beneco recently provided electric light to residents in two sitios in Barangay Topdac, Atok. The energization of far-flung sitios in Benguet has invigorated the established partnership between the community and the electric cooperative.
The above-mentioned activities by Beneco have eased the inconvenience experienced by consumers as a result of unscheduled brownouts within her coverage area.
It is unfortunate for other electric coops in the region with unstable finances and lack of appropriate equipment. Demands and complaints about better service outweigh compliments. Yet improvement for solid consumer relations should be taken into consideration through dialogues. It could fetch member services at an acceptable plane.
By the way, I read this somewhere: "There can be no light if darkness does not exist."
Brownouts of electric power service are part of our lives. We have to learn how to live with the situation.
November 06, 2020
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