THE two camps in the leadership struggle in the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) have agreed to cooperate to allow the cooperative to settle its unpaid dues to the power supplier TeaM Energy.

As of June 2022, the cooperative has racked up some P245 million of unpaid dues to the power supplier. Both camps, in a forum initiated by the Baguio City Council, agreed to temporarily come to a truce and focus on coming up with a mutually agreeable arrangement to pay off the dues.

Board of Directors (BOD) – appointed general manager, Melchor Licoben, said that the unpaid dues are due to banks freezing the cooperative’s accounts following the leadership standoff.

Licoben said that the electric cooperative’s bank accounts containing a total amount of P441 million had become inaccessible, affecting the operations of the electric cooperative.

Licoben explained that Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Philippine National Bank (PNB) changed the signatories and closed the accounts. Meanwhile, Development Bank of the Philippines stopped honoring Licoben and Somngi as signatories. Metrobank, Rang-ay, and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), on the other hand, decided to freeze the funds. The seventh bank, Summit Bank, sought the court’s intervention by filing a declaratory relief.  

Due to the freezing of BENECO accounts, not only has the cooperative become unable to pay their dues to the power supplier, BOD President Esteban Somngi said that the cooperative’s social responsibilities and the provision of retirement benefits to employees have been put on hold.

In a letter to city officials in July, BENECO accused the camp of National Electrification Administration (NEA) – appointed general manager Rafael of pressuring banks into not accepting Licoben and Somngi as signatories or freezing BENECO funds.