House resolution: Retain Licoben as Beneco GM

>> Wednesday, September 29, 2021

NEA told: Maintain status quo 

BAGUIO CITY – The committee on energy of the House of Representatives filed House Resolution 2239 Thursday “urging the National Electrification Administration  Board of Administrators to strictly adhere to and comply with provisions of NEA memorandum no. 207-035, on the selection of general managers of electric cooperatives, particularly on the case of the Benguet Electric Cooperative and to take the appropriate actions to fulfill the mandate of the NEA as specified in Presidential Decree No. 269, as amended, as the government agency with supervisory powers and functions over electric cooperatives.”      
   HB 2239 stated the “NEA should be admonished because it committed grave abuse of discretion due to lack of jurisdiction, in the issuance and hiring of general managers.”
    HB 2239 added, “The ‘status quo’ must be observed on retaining the current Officer-In-Charge of Beneco until all issues of the general manager have been resolved to ensure that there will be no interregnum that will affect the operations and services of the Beneco.”
    Engineer Melchor Licoben is the current Beneco OIC general manager who is currently dispensing his duties as GM like signing checks and directing daily operations of the electric cooperative.
    He was earlier appointed as GM by the Beneco Board of Directors.
    The problem started when lawyer Anna Marie Rafael was recently “appointed” by the NEA BOA as GM.
    This was questioned by the Beneco Board of Directors who said it is only BODs of electric cooperatives who can appoint their GM.
    They said the NEA cannot appoint the GM of an EC.
    Rafael, former Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office has since holed up in the Dumol Hall of the Beneco main office here in South Drive until the city government ordered the establishment closed last weekend for anti-Covid disinfection since some 10 workers were reportedly infected with the Covid-19 virus.
    Beneco workers said Rafael’s occupying Dumol Hall hampered their work.
    The building is set for reopening tomorrow.       
    HB 2239 was introduced by Reps. Presley C. de Jesus, Sergio C. Dagooc, Adriano A. Ebcas, Godofredo N. Guya, Juan Miguel M. Arroyo, Jericho Jonas B. Nograles, Hector S. Sanchez, Abdullah D. Dimaporo, Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Diego C. Ty, John Marvin C. Nieto, Alyssa Sheena P. Tan, Ruth Mariano-Hernandez, Jose Gay G. Padiernos, Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas, Rufus B. Rodriguez, Crystal L. Bagatsing and Tyrone Agabas.
    HB 2239 resolved that, “The Department of Energy, through its Secretary, and the NEA, through its administrator, shall be furnished with this Committee Report and the House adopts the attached House Resolution (2239.)”
    Committee members earlier said the NEA’s appointing Rafael was ‘ultra vires’ or beyond the power of the NEA.
    The committee earlier on Sept. 7 voted to direct the NEA board of administrators to strictly follow the selection process for the Beneco GM as defined under NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035.
    They said only Board of Directors of electric cooperatives can appoint their respective general managers.
    The House committee told the NEA BOA to revoke Resolution 2021 – 47 it earlier released appointing Rafael.
    In approving the resolution, the congressmen said there was no vacancy in the position of GM when the NEA – BOA appointed Rafael, a former mayor of Natonin, Mountain Province.
    The resolution said that NEA-BOA’s action “clearly constituted an ultra vires act,” an act done beyond one’s legal power or authority.
    The congressmen told the NEA BOA to follow the law (the electric cooperative law) wherein it “is quite clear that the powers of the NEA over EC’s are supervisory in nature and not be tantamount to control.”
    While telling said BOA that it is not very familiar with the selection process, the congressmen said that its members “clearly violated or abused their power.”
    They further said: “The NEA BOA interpreted the selected provisions of its issuance that will only cater to its intention,” adding “the discretionary power and authority to appoint a GM belongs exclusively to the BOD of the EC concerned and not to the BOA of the NEA.”
    The selection and appointment of the GM, the congressmen said, “belongs exclusively to the BOD of the EC concerned and not the BOA of the NEA.”
    Selecting and appointing the GM of Beneco, they added “is an overreach of their powers (and) is an ultra vires act.”
    Noted Baguio lawyer Lauro Gacayan in a post on Facebook compared the NEA – BOA to the Judicial and Bar Council which interviews qualified persons for the position of justices and judges and submit three names to the President from whom the latter will choose his appointee.
    In bold letters, Gacayan said: “they cannot submit only one name to the president, otherwise that is tantamount for the JBC making the appointment, not the president.”
    Beneco had two applicants, Rafael and Licoben, who were both interviewed and given a battery of tests by the NEA BOA, however, it was only Rafael’s name that was forwarded to the Beneco board of directors.
He added: “No choice (in caps). In short, they (NEA – BOA) arrogated the power of the BOD to appoint the General Manager.     They also violated their own Rules.”
    Meanwhile, lawyers of Rafael filed charges of “contempt, gross insubordination willful violation of NEA rules and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the Cooperative and its member-consumers against seven directors and two officers of Beneco.”
    Rafael filed on Sept. 6 the complaint against directors Esteban Songi, Jeffred Acop, Mike Maspil, Peter Busaing, Jonathan Obar, Josephine Tuling and Robert Valentin as well as Licoben and Institutional Services Department head Delmar Carino.
    Rafael, in her complaint asked NEA to “suspend and subsequently dismiss and penalize the officers for open defiance of NEA.”
    Carino said they filed a counter-affidavit with the NEA over the issue saying is now with the Court of Appeals and it should be the CA which should rule over the matter.  -- AD


Baguio, Benguet Covid up; Folks riled as border checks create traffic mess

 By Liza Galao and Marissa Cabato

BAGUIO CITY – Massive traffic hit road borders of Baguio and nearby Benguet towns starting Thursday as local governments implemented strict Covid containment rules following huge increase in cases of the dreaded virus in said areas.    
    Road border checkpoints will be in effect until Oct. 3 in Baguio City and the Benguet towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay.
    In meeting here last week, mayors of these areas jointly issued an advisory limiting movement of people and the entry of non-residents for non-essential travel as this city and Benguet province are placed under Alert Level 4.
    During the meeting Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said from an average of five to six travelers out of 700 undergoing triage testing positive, the number rose to 12 to 15 for every 300 travelers this month. 
    He added Baguio City now has an average of 254 cases and eight deaths per day, compared to only 25-32 cases per day in August. 
    The municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay also reported high numbers of cases and deaths despite their relatively small populations, and noted that transmission is more rapid with the Delta variant.
    Baguio reported 411 new Covid-19 cases last Sept. 18, the highest single-day rally, bringing the total active cases to 3,053, the Dept. of Health in the region said.  
    The figure was the highest after the Sept. 11 single-day record of 289 since the start of the pandemic in 2020. 
Benguet recorded 15 deaths related to Covid-19 on Monday (Sept. 20), its highest since the pandemic struck last year.
    According to the provincial health office, the latest fatalities raised to 402 the province’s Covid-19 death toll.
Benguet also registered 337 new infections on Monday, pushing to 14, 268 its total Covid-19 cases.
    The province has 2,674 active cases and 11,192 recoveries. According to the provincial health office, the latest fatalities raised to 402 the province’s Covid-19 death toll.
    Benguet also registered 337 new infections on Monday, pushing to 14, 268 its total Covid-19 cases.
    So far, the province has 2,674 active cases and 11,192 recoveries.
    In a statement, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said the travel agreement was forged during a meeting of the mayors and representatives of the BLISTT areas.
    The suspension will run until Oct. 3.
    Palangdan said non-formal workers living in BLISTT areas need to secure a certificate of employment from their respective barangay officials starting Sept. 27.
    He said residents who need to travel between BLISTT localities to access essential goods or services are allowed provided they do this on designated schedules.
    According to the mayor, the protocol is part of the collective efforts of the people of BLISTT to prevent the virus from further spreading.
    This, as the Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (PIATF-EID) ordered suspension of tourism, tourism-related activities, and mass gatherings to contain surge Covid-19 cases in the province.
    Gov. Melchor Diclas said the suspension of said activities will be until the end of the month of September pursuant to the general community quarantine status of the province based on latest classification of local governments handed down by the national IATF.
    He said municipal governments should not allow entry of residents and visitors in known tourist destinations during this period to restrict movement of people and contain spread of the virus.
    Residents traveling within and between the BLISTT are required to present documents showing that they are authorized persons outside residence (APORs) or are moving around for essential reasons.
    "Residents who wish to travel to access essential goods and services may do so on designated schedules that shall be provided by their respective local government units (LGUs)," the advisory read.
    Cargo, delivery and logistics services for essential or non-essential goods will continue.
    Meantime, persons 17 years old and below, senior citizens aged 65 and above, and immuno-compromised persons were urged to avoid unnecessary travel outside their homes, except for other purposes such as medical reasons.
    Travelers going in and out of Baguio City were also advised to pass Marcos Highway and avoid the Asin-Nangalisan-San Pascual highway which is intended only for essential cargo.
    The advisory was agreed upon by the mayors in a meeting on Sept. 21 to protect residents and curb the spread of the disease. 


PNP task force probes Abra lady doctor’s slay; politics eyed

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan 

PILAR, Abra -- Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Monday ordered the creation of a special task force that would probe the killing of a doctor who ran in the 2019 elections as mayor of Pilar.
    This, as Abra congressman JB Bernos expressed belief the attack was politically motivated as Dait was a known opposition leader in the town.
    She ran but lost in the mayoral race in the May 2019 elections.
    Her trusted aide was reportedly found dead with multiple bullet wounds during an earlier gun attack.
    Eleazar said the task force would ensure the speedy investigation of the death of Dr. Amor Trina Dait and vowed that all angles would be looked into to bring the perpetrators to justice.
    "I have issued an order to the regional director of the Police Regional Office-CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) to form a special investigation task group to expedite the investigation in this case,” Eleazar said in Filipino in a video message sent to reporters Monday.
    Dait, a resident doctor of La Paz District Hospital, was gunned down inside her residence in Barangay Poblacion night of Sept. 18.
    Eleazar extended his condolences to Dait's family and assured them that he would personally follow up the case.
    One angle Eleazar said, could be individuals who have personal grudges against the victim.
    He appealed to residents in Pilar to inform and coordinate with authorities if they have information on the incident or any other suspects.
    "This incident only encouraged us to be more aggressive in our campaign against private armed groups and loose firearms to ensure the peace, honest and orderly conduct of the elections next year," Eleazar said.
    Other reports said Dait was wounded and later died of heart attack after an unidentified armed man opened fire at her house in Pilar.
    The victim suffered a gunshot wound in the leg and was taken to the Abra Provincial Hospital for treatment.
    She, however, died of heart attack while being treated, authorities said.
    Police said Dait and her husband were sitting at the balcony of their house in Barangay Poblacion when a motorcyle with the assailant pulled over at around 7:30 p.m.
    The assailant, reportedly armed with a rifle, fired five shots toward the victim’s house.
    Responding police officers rushed the victim to the hospital.
    Probers recovered five bullet shells for an M16 rifle at the scene.


3 Ilocos NIA officials face graft charges

By Jaime Aquino

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- Criminal charges have been filed against Administrator Ricardo Visaya of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and two other NIA officials in Region 1 before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly extorting money from a contractor and their alleged inefficiency to solve the water supply problem of the farmers.
    This was revealed by the officers and members of the Citizens Movement Against Corruption, Crime, Illegal Drugs and Gambling Inc. headed by Prof. Salvador Singson-de Guzman in his meeting with several farmer leaders in La Union and Pangasinan on Saturday, September 18.
    De Guzman said he also filed criminal cases for extortion and estafa (swindling) against Visaya along with Region 1 NIA Acting Regional Director Angelito Miguel and Gaudencio de Vera, division manager of Pangasinan Irrigation Management Office.
    They are also facing gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of their duties.
    De Vera and Miguel were blamed by farmers who were not able to plant rice in the first cropping from June to September for lack of water.
    De Guzman said water supply was stopped in five irrigation systems - Agno, Sinocalan, Lower Agno, Ambayaoan and Dipalo from April to September.
    About 30,000 hectares of rice lands were reportedly affected.
    The NIA officials said they are ready to face the charges.
    "[I will] wait for the [official] summon from the Ombudsman," Visaya said in a text message to this writer Monday.
    In a statement, Eden Victoria Selva, acting department manager of the office of the Public Affairs and Information Staff of the NIA said, "All allegations on corruption and money extortions are baseless and unmeritorious."
    "Reiterating the San Roque Power Corporation's Reservoir Level Forecast for San Roque Multipurpose Dam, which is operated by the National Power Corporation (NPC) the reservoir is hitting the critical level of 22.5 meters above sea level wherein such scenario would render them incapable of running the plant eight hours a day to fulfill the contracted capacity of 115 megawatts x 8 hours during peak. The water elevation level in the reservoir was below the Operation Rule Curve, resulting in non-releasing of irrigation water supply to five (5) irrigation systems. NIA blames no one because these circumstances are beyond our control," the NIA statement said.
    "The latest publication failed to substantiate these anomalies and allegations that are only meant to degrade the competency of NIA officials. These also tend to undermine or set aside the numerous socioeconomic benefits of irrigation projects to the community, especially to our farmers."
    De Guzman also claimed that one of the Contractors, Ramon Velasco, executed an affidavit accusing de Vera and Miguel of extorting P500,000 from him. The money was a bribe so that he can join the bidding for the construction of a dam in Bugallon, Pangasinan.
    Miguel allegedly received the money from Velasco on Aug. 23, 2020 while de Vera acted as the facilitator in their meeting.
In his sworn affidavit dated Aug. 5, 2021, Velasco said that de Vera and Miguel demanded P1 million, allegedly for Visaya and P500,000 for them.
    Velasco gave P500,000 as partial payment.
    Velasco promised to deliver the full amount of P1 million once he won the project.
    Velasco discovered later that the project was awarded to another construction firm.
    Velasco said he visited the two officials in their office in Urdaneta City on Sept. 3, 2020.
    He was told that the P500,000 he gave was not accepted by Visaya's men because the money was not enough.
NIA officials denied the allegations.
    "The bidding process of all irrigation projects was conducted by the Bids and Awards Committee A (BAC-A) Central Office and Field Offices nationwide in accordance with the 2016 Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act 9184). The projects (in question) are not exempted from this process," NIA Acting Department Manager Eden Victoria Selva explained.
    "The eradication of graft and corruption comes first in the Four-Point Agenda of NIA Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya."
    The group of de Guzman also discovered another corruption at the NIA office where some of the alleged retired military officers are also collecting money from the contractors who wanted to join the bidding of the infrastructure projects.
However, de Guzman admitted they have no proof of such an allegation. --With Reports from Jordeene Lagare


2 Kalinga hospitals suspend admission of Covid patients

TABUK CITY– After reaching full capacity, two hospitals in Kalinga announced they cannot yet admit persons infected with Covid-19.
    The Kalinga Provincial Hospital (KPH) Infection Prevention Committee (IPC) in Bulanao, Tabuk City, said it has recorded more than 90 Covid-19 patients who are currently undergoing medical treatment and management.
    The IPC also disclosed that 10 of the number are hospital personnel who were exposed to their patients.
    Earlier, 30 other hospital personnel tested positive of the virus. They are now undergoing home quarantine.
Hospital management ordered the mass swabbing of all hospital personnel to stem possible internal transmission.
    The consultation services of KPH’s Out Patient Department (OPD) are also temporarily suspended.
Services for orthopedic patients will depend on the availability of surgeons.
    The Holy Trinity Medical Clinic (HTMC), also in Bulanao, Tabuk City, likewise announced that its Covid-19 facility ward is temporarily closed for admission after reaching full capacity.
Management said some of its health care workers have tested positive of the virus.


Sagada asks for face-to- face classes

By Liza Agoot  

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- The Schools Board of Sagada and the Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) in the town are asking to allow face-to-face classes for students considering the poor cellphone and internet connectivity and the difficulty of parents to teach their children.
    Mayor James Pooten, in a phone interview on Monday, said the residents want that all schools in the municipality be included in the face-to-face classes.
    He said that during the Schools Board meeting, one of the agenda taken was the opening of the school year where members aired the position of the different PTAs who are asking that the face-to-face classes resume.
    Pooten said that all schools in the town are located in far-flung areas and the PTA members themselves have committed to assuring that no outsiders can enter the villages who might bring in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
    He also said that they continue to maintain their border checkpoints and triage where people entering the town are required to undergo processing.
    He added that non-residents, upon entry, are endorsed to the village officials.
    The mayor said students, teachers, as well as parents and guardians have difficulty considering the poor internet connectivity while several areas still have no cellphone signal.
    He added that while the modular system is being adopted by most of the students, many parents are incapable of helping their children.
    “Ano ba ang asahan mo na sila magtuturo sa mga anak nila eh sila mismo eh no read no write. Wala talaga, nahihirapan ang estudyante natin (how can you expect the parents to teach their children if they are unable to read nor write. It is really difficult and our children are suffering),” he said.
    Sagada is among the local government units in the Cordillera and Mountain Province that continues to observe strict movement and entry protocols with the residents themselves being the watchdogs who assured that no outsiders can enter the area as protection from Covid-19. (PNA) 



Fast internet soon in far Cordillera towns

CONNECTED. Cordillera leaders and Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (5th from left) show the memorandum of agreement between the region and internet service provider Converge signed at the Baguio Convention Center on Friday (Sept. 17, 2021). The deal will provide internet connectivity even in remote mountain towns. (PNA photo by Liza Agoot)

By Liza Agoot 

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is expected to have a strong and reliable connectivity by 2023 after an internet service provider committed to provide a fiber-optic broadband network and a satellite global technology even in the most remote mountain towns.
    Clarence Alvarado, the lead engineer of Metroworks ICT in charge of installing fiber optic cables, said Baguio, La Trinidad, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay (BLSTT) towns have been installed with several backbone cables, most of them active and reaching homes.
    For Phase 1 installation that will be until January 2022, the lines will be in seven Benguet towns, six municipalities in Mountain Province, four towns in Kaling, and four in Abra, Alvarado said in a briefing after the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) at the Baguio Convention Center on Friday.
    By March 2022 until 2023, Alvarado said the cable lines would have reached Asipulo, Alfonso Lista, Kiangan, and Lagawe in Ifugao; Pudtol, Kabugao, and Flora in Apayao; Paracelis, Barlig, and Natonin in Mountain Province; Kabayan, Kapangan, and Kibungan in Benguet, including Banaue and Hingyon in Ifugao, for the last leg of the project which will be followed by the continuing expansion project to bring secondary lines in homes and offices.
    Mountain Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan, in his speech after the MOA signing, said an improved communication network will not just allow the local governments to deliver better and faster services.
    It will be beneficial as well to students and the community in general.
    Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, who facilitated the inclusion of the Cordillera in the company’s expansion project, witnessed the signing activity.
    Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas hopes for better performance of existing connectivity service.
    “We are happy that the company included the Cordillera as an expansion project. It is a defining moment for the people of the Cordillera,” Tabuk City, Kalinga Mayor Darwin Estranero said.
    Sagada Mayor James Pooten said their plan to reopen tourism will need internet service as they have an online registration portal to control the number of tourists.
    He said their inclusion in the project will be of much help in economic recovery
    Dennis Anthony Uy, chief executive officer of Converge, said in a recorded video message his company’s goal is to go to unserved and underserved areas.
    “Aakyatin namin ang mga bundok ng Cordillera para marating ang inyong mga probinsiya (We will climb the mountains of the Cordillera so that we can reach the provinces). We would like to build a world-class digital highway thru the Cordillera and support the growth and development of the provinces. We would like to see the Cordillera provinces beginning to use the technology to deliver the much-needed service to the people,” Uy said.
    Considering the region’s terrain that will make installing fiber optic cables a challenge, a satellite global technology will be used to connect difficult-to-reach areas.
    “It is my goal to bring connectivity to the majority of Filipino households and the MOA signing will bring us closer to reaching that goal,” he said. -- PNA



Cauayan PNP officer nabbed for extortion

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela -- A 38-year-old police master sergeant was arrested in an entrapment operation after he allegedly tried to extort P300,000 from an arrested drug suspect here in exchange for liberty.
    Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police, said he ordered the summary proceedings against MSg. Sherwin Gamit, who was assigned to the warrant section of Cauayan City Police.
    An entrapment operation was conducted against Gamit by operatives of Isabela police following a complaint raised by the family of the drug suspect, who was recently arrested by authorities.
    According to Eleazar, Gamit was caught receiving P300,000 marked money from the female relative of the drug suspect.
    This was meant to be the money for "fixing" the case of the drug suspect.
    The entrapment also resulted in the seizing from Gamit of a Cal.22 handgun without serial numbers, a Cal. 9 mm police service firearm with three loaded magazines.
    Other items confiscated from Gamit were cash, amounting to P5,055, assorted receipts, a PNP identification (ID) card, automated teller machine cards and a black leather ID case.
    Gamit was placed under police custody while administrative charges were being readied against him to finalize his dismissal from the force.
    Eleazar said since 2016, more than 5,000 policemen had been dismissed from the service while there were at least 18,000 more who were charged as part of the so-called "aggressive internal cleansing and instituting discipline in the PNP ranks." --  Dempsey Reyes and Vince Jacob Visaya


Beneco GM explains upped power rates


ALL-WEATHER JOB Linemen of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) work through heavy rain to repair a power line and restore the supply of electricity in a section of Baguio City. Local officials invited the Beneco general manager to the city council session this week to explain the increase in power rates. —Neil Clark Ongchangco

BAGUIO CITY – The Benguet Electric Cooperative explained to the City Council here Monday increased power rates which households and businesses here and Benguet are experiencing.
    The power utility serving Baguio and Benguet is renegotiating its supply contract after spiraling coal prices led to a sharp increase in electric bills in August, Beneco general manager Melchor Licoben said during the Baguio City council session.
    The Beneco buys electricity from independent power producer Team Energy, which raised the cost of power generation this year when world coal prices hovered between $149 (P7,470) and $173 (P8,6730) per metric ton, he added.
    Before the pandemic struck, coal prices averaged $66 (P3,308) per MT, he said. But prices dropped lower than $66 when economies closed at the start of the global Covid-19 outbreak and recently shot up as world economies rebound from the 2020 recession, Licoben said.
    Around 60 percent of fees paid by consumers are “pass-thru” generation charges, referring to the cost of producing electricity that is shouldered by consumers.
    Citing fluctuating coal prices, Licoben said Beneco expected steep generation costs to last until the first quarter of 2022, which was why it began to seek new terms with the supplier.
    Team Energy’s contract with Beneco will expire in 2024.
    The council invited Licoben to the session to explain why Baguio consumers paid P9.4 per kilowatt hour, or a P940 fee for consuming 100 kWh, in current bills.
    They were reportedly charged P8.6 per kWh in July and P8.5 per kWh in June, due to an average of 22 centavos monthly increase starting in February.
    Generation cost refers to the component of the electric bill that is used to pay TeaM Energy for the purchase of power.
In the past months, consumers have seen a spike in their electricity bills due to the increase in the generation charge.
    This, according to Licoben, was the effect of the price increase of coal in the global market due to the high demand for electricity.
    “As the economy gradually reopens, the prices of coal continue to increase. This tremendously affects the computation of generation cost which is very much felt by the consumers, especially so that the generation charge makes up around 50 to 60 percent of the electric bill,” Licoben said.
    According to a report by the International Energy Agency, global electricity demand which is closely linked to coal is set to grow by close to 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022.
    Licoben said one measure to mitigate the effects of the upward trend in coal prices to the consumers is to set a fixed generation charge.
    Beneco and TeaM Energy have yet to agree on a fixed generation charge that is acceptable to both parties, he added.
Earlier, the city council sent an invitation addressed to the general manager of Beneco to shed light on the surge of power rates experienced by the consumers in the past months in aid of legislation.
    Licoben, whom the Beneco Board of Directors appointed as General Manager, appeared before the local legislative body during its regular session to explain the current power rate adjustments.
    The bilateral contract between Beneco and TeaM Energy requires consumers to pay a generation charge of P3.85/kWh from January to June and P3.80/kWh from July to December for as long as the price of coal is within the bandwidth ranging from 66 USD per metric ton (MT) to 125 USD per MT.
    However, the price of coal reached 173.48 USD/MT in August 2021, pushing the generation charge up to P5.00/kWh.
    This month, the price of coal hit a record high of 179 USD/MT, forcing consumers to pay a soaring P5.25/kWh generation charge.
    The breach in the bandwidth has rendered the computation of the generation charge volatile, the general manager stressed.
    Alarmed by the uptrend in coal prices, the council members expressed their support to Beneco in its move to negotiate with TeaM Energy for the setting of a fixed generation charge.
    Licoben said that apart from generation cost, the transmission charges for the month of August have also been increased by P0.1138/kWh due to the increase in the ancillary service charges that are remitted to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
    Another factor contributing to the power rate hike is the implementation of the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) which covers adjustments relating to Foreign Exchange and the Generation charge Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) which covers adjustments for fuel costs. ICERA and GRAM are now added as items in the billing pursuant to the mandate of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
    Based on Licoben’s report that was submitted to the council, these additional charges affect only the consumers during the test period from July 2009 to April 2010 for the 15th to 16th ICERA and consumers during the test period from January 2007 to April 2010 for the 10th to 17th GRAM.
    Despite the power rate adjustments, Licoben said Beneco remains one of the electric cooperatives in the country with the lowest power rates.
    Hence, it was bestowed the prestigious Ace of Tariff Award for its commitment to provide the cheapest electricity on-grid rate to its consumers.  – With a report from Jordan G. Habbiling


Army troops kill 5 NPAs in Cagayan gunfight

By Villamor Visaya, Jr.

TUGUEGARAO CITY – Army soldiers on Wednesday found five bodies of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who were believed killed in a gunfight on Tuesday here in Barangay Dungeg, Sta. Teresita, Cagayan.
    Army Maj. Jekyll Dulawan, 5th Infantry Division (5ID) spokesperson, said aside from the bodies, the soldiers also found and recovered three high-powered firearms, three anti-personnel mines, five handheld radios, four mobile phones, assorted medical supplies and equipment, anti-government documents and personal belongings.
    He said soldiers uncovered a rebel hideout where anti-personnel mines were manufactured by the NPA-Komiteng Rehiyon-Cagayan Valley after Tuesday's firefight.
    The Army did not suffer any casualties in the firefight against some 40 communist rebels.
    The accurate information provided by the locals and the timely, precise and well-coordinated actions of the ground troops and the Philippine Air Force led to this decisive engagement against the NPAs without any casualties on the government forces and the civilians,” Dulawan told the Philippine News Agency in a phone interview.
    Maj. Gen. Laurence Mina, 5ID commander, said the division remains steadfast in working with the people and the local government units in ensuring peace and development in its area of responsibility.
    On Tuesday morning, troops under the 501st Brigade conducted an operation in the hinterlands of Dungeg, following reports that rebels had established a lair there and were using it as a facility for making improvised bombs.
    Intermittent firefight with about 40 rebels ensued for about two hours, then air and artillery fire were delivered.
    The rebels are believed to be members of the East Front of Komiteng Probinsiya Cagayan under the Komiteng Rehiyon-Cagayan Valley.


OCTA: Benguet, Cagayan, Isabela under critical levels of Covid-19

NEW ISOLATION HUB. The 140-bed isolation facility in Tayum, Abra, which opened this week to augment the province’s medical facilities and temporary treatment facilities. Governor Ma. Jocelyn Bernos, in a post on Thursday (Sept 16, 2021), said the facility is equipped with medical personnel, utility personnel, and a kitchen to provide the food needs of those in isolation. (Photo taken from Gov. Ma. Jocelyn Bernos FB page) 


Independent research group OCTA on Sept. 22, flagged Isabela, Cagayan, Benguet, Laguna, and Bataan as “provinces of major concern” due to “critical” levels of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) incidence rate, ICU utilization and positivity rate in these areas.
Based on OCTA’s monitoring from Sept. 15 to 21, Isabela logged the highest Covid-19 one-week growth rate at 158 percent.
    Meanwhile, Benguet registered the highest average daily attack rate (ADAR) or incidence rate per day of 53 cases per 100,000 population.
    Benguet was followed by Cagayan with an ADAR of 37.79, 36.43 in Isabela, 30.25 in Bataan, and 25.69 in Laguna.
    The utilization of ICU beds for COVID-19 cases was also critical in the five provinces–94 percent in Isabela, 87 percent in Cagayan, 90 percent in Benguet, 87 percent in Laguna, and 92 percent in Bataan.
    OCTA also noted that the Covid-19 positivity rate or the percentage of PCR tests that yielded a positive result, in the five provinces remain critical–50 percent in Cagayan, 40 percent in Benguet, 43 percent in Isabela, 38 percent in Laguna, and 30 percent in Bataan.
    Meanwhile, hospital bed occupancy for Covid-19 cases in Laguna (73 percent) and Bataan (84 percent) were still not critical but were already “high.”
    In Isabela, Cagayan, and Benguet, hospital bed occupancies were at a critical level at 90 percent, 87 percent, and 96 percent, respectively.
    Meanwhile, several provinces registered negative Covid-19 growth rates over the past week.
    These are Cavite (-20 percent), Laguna (-20 percent), Rizal (-8 percent), Bulacan (-19 percent), Batangas (-2 percent), Davao del Sur (-12 percent), Pampanga (-2 percent), Cagayan (-1 percent), Iloilo (-17 percent), and Cebu (-9 percent).


Sto. Tomas eyed for waste-to-energy plant

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government will put up its own waste-to-energy plant here to address the city’s garbage disposal problem and produce cheap renewable energy that will be infused into the grid.
    Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong said proponents for the energy plant gave up their plans to establish the said facility in nearby Sablan, Benguet because of mixed signals they had been getting from municipal officials.
    He said the local government will be asking project proponents to identify portion of a city-owned property in Sto. Tomas where this plant could be constructed.
    Magalong said the project will be jointly implemented by the proponent, the State-owned Philippine National Oil Company–Renewables Corporation (PNOC-RC) and local government.
    The proponent will reportedly inspect the 139-hectare city-owned property in Sto. Tomas to ascertain site for this facility.
    During the early years of the present administration, it eyed the construction of a waste-to-energy plant within the property ceded by the agriculture department to the city but there were some questions on the feasibility of the land and the area where the facility can be constructed that compelled the proponent and the city to look for other areas for the project.
    A private property in Sablan was earlier identified as site for the plant but the mixed signals from municipal officials on the status of the project caused the city government to reconsider and offer its property in Sto. Tomas for the project.
    City Administrator Bonifacio dela Pen֮a said construction of the road to the property was expensive and the proponent will have to shoulder the development cost as part of the project.
    The Sobrepen֮a-owned Metro Global Renewable Corporation is one of the proponents for this 10-megawatt waste-to-energy plant that is capable of converting at least 10 tons of the generated waste into renewable energy.
    Construction of this plant is seen as one solution that will address cost of hauling city garbage to the sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac which had been the temporary solution to the garbage disposal problem of the city for over a decade now. 


2 cities, 19 Ilocos Sur towns back to ECQ

VIGAN CITY – At least two cities and 19 towns of Ilocos Sur province will be placed under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks starting September 22 due to surge of Covid-19 cases.
    In a six-page executive order penned by Gov. Ryan Luis V. Singson on Monday, he said the number of residents in the province being infected with Covid-19 was rising at an “alarming rate.”
    To slow down local transmission of the current 3,285 active cases, mostly involving government front-liners, Singson said there was need to impose ECQ in the cities of Vigan and Candon, as well as the municipalities of Bantay, Cabugao, Caoayan, Del Pilar, Magsingal, Narvacan, Salcedo, San Ildefonso, San Juan, San Vicente, Santa, Santiago, Sinait, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Lucia, Sta. Maria, Sto. Domingo, and Suyo.
    The remaining 13 municipalities will remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions until Sept. 30 in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force guidelines.
    From Sept. 22 to October 6 or unless sooner lifted, the movement of residents in the said local government units is strictly limited to emergency and medical purposes.
    There will also be heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures,” said Singson.
    All forms of mass gatherings will also be prohibited except for the provision of health services, government services or duly authorized humanitarian activities.
    Curfew is also set from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a total liquor ban during the ECQ period. -- PNA



Duterte sets POC meeting to ‘end’ Cordi insurgency

BAGUIO CITY -- President Rodrigo Duterte told leaders and stakeholders in Cordillera that he will be presiding over a peace and order council meeting in the region anytime soon to tackle pressing issues and concerns that would help in ending the communist movement before he steps down from power next year.
    In a video call facilitated by Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo prior to the start of a gathering of Cordillera officials recently, the President stated he wanted to visit the Cordillera to see what is happening on the ground and how government was responding to issues and concerns of the people but the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement people prevented him to do so.
    He said he will try to convince his security officials to allow him to visit the Cordillera and other similarly situated regions in the country to interact with people and for him to know and understand their concerns that need immediate action by concerned government agencies.
    The Chief Executive said he wants insurgency eradicated the soonest to develop opportunities in the countryside.
    President Duterte committed to Cordillera leaders he will try to provide funding for identified priority projects.
    He apologized to Cordillera leaders for his failure to visit the Cordillera the past five years but he will make sure he will do it sooner.


8 Cordi cops awarded for performance

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- The Police Regional Office Cordillera awarded eight cops, while a certificate of recognition was given to an office for outstanding performance here Sept. 20.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee presented awards assisted by his command group.
Same award was given Cpl. Brent George D Manuit.
    Medalya ng Kagalingan was also awarded to Maj. Leonard A. Danasen for the arrest of three drug personalities and confiscation of five grams of shabu in Tadian, Tuba, Benguet. Same award was given to CMS Danny P Killiaen.
    Medalya ng Patulong sa Nasalanta (PNP Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Medal), was awarded to Lt. Dalton Sipol Mayos for performance in search and retrieval operation along Amburayan, River, Cuba, Kapangan, Benguet in recovery of cadaver. 
    Same award was given to SSg Dante A Es-esa.
    Medalya ng Papuri (PNP Commendation Medal) was awarded to MSg Marlon N Claudio and SSg Elzer A. Saltin who ferried a sick senior citizen with a stretcher from his residence to the hospital.
    In line with intensified cleanliness policy of the Chief PNP, a Certificate of Recognition was awarded to the Regional Intelligence Division for being the cleanest office for the week during surprise inspection Sept. 13-17.
     The Medalya ng Kagalingan (PNP Medal of Merit), was awarded to Maj. Zacarias Caloy Palasiw Dausen for the arrest of the top 8 most wanted man in provincial level.



Bangued trike driver held for illegal gun

BANGUED, Abra -- A tricycle driver is facing charges for violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) after being caught in possession of unlicensed firearm here in Barangay Bañacao on Sept. 19.
Police named the suspect as Rumy Dacanay Blanes, 25, a resident here of San Antonio.
    A police report said cops were conducting mobile patrol and enforcing general community quarantine protocols, when they noticed the suspect driving without face mask and his motorcycle did not have any plate number attached.
    Cops asked Blanes to stop and asked for his driver’s license and saw a firearms in his bag.
    The gun 9 mm pistol had a defaced serial number, two magazines and seven bullets.
    Blanes failed to present documents for the gun prompting cops to arrest him.

5 persons nabbed in Baguio, Benguet, Kalinga for shabu

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Five persons were arrested in the region last week for illegal drugs, Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee said.
     In Barangay Buyagan here,  Remelyn Ramos Balbin aka “Vans,” 28 of Puguis was arrested  by police and anti-narcotic agents after she allegedly sold to a cop “shabu” worth P16, 592 Sept. 20.
    Confiscated from her were buy-bust money and cell phone used in the transaction. 
    Inventory of confiscated items was witnessed by kagawad Bruno Shadto Jr. of Barangay Poblacion and prosecutor Lillian Oliva.
    A man was also caught selling illegal drugs in a buy-bust operation conducted in Barangay Betag, evening of Sept. 20. The suspect was identified as Robin Dela Cruz Almandres a.k.a Asiong, 24, a resident of Shamolog, Central Pico.
    Almandres was arrested after he sold suspected shabu weighting 0.06 gram worth P408.00 to cop.
 Inventory of confiscated items was done on site witnessed by barangay kagawad Angel Decaleng and prosecutor Arthur Bataclao.
    A laborer was also arrested in a buy-bust operation Sept. 20, 2021 in Caponga, Tublay, Benguet.
    Nabbed was Herman Benito Molitas, 46, of Kibungan town after he sold shabu weighing three grams worth P20,400 to an undercover cop.
    Confiscated items were inventoried and witnessed by prosecutor Hazen Binayan, punong barangay Alnorwin Suaking of Caponga, Tublay, Benguet and media representative, Dionisio Dennis.
    In nearby Baguio City, apprehended Sept. 19 were Sherwin Basbas Fernandez, 32, butcher, resident of Santo Niño,     Slaughterhouse and Agosto Banas Antonio a.k.a. Darrel, 39, farmer, of Kapangan, Benguet.
    Fernandez was arrested in Barangay Quezon Hill Proper after he reportedly sold suspected shabu weighing one gram worth
    P6,800 to an undercover agent.
    Additional one gram of shabu worth P6,800 and buy-bust money were also seized from him.
    Meanwhile, Antonio was arrested after hot pursuit in Bileng, Sagubo, Kapangan, Benguet.
    Antonio evaded arrest in a buy-bust operation same date in Taguig City.
    After receiving the information, operatives confirmed that the suspect was hiding at his residence in Kapangan.
    In a another case, a government employee was arrested after operatives seized  P57,000 worth of suspected shabu in a search warrant conducted in Agbannawag, Tabuk City, Kalinga on Sept. 17. 
    Judge Randy B. Bulwayan of RTC Branch 39, Lubuagan, Kalinga, earlier issued arrest warrant that resulted in the arrest of Harvey Gumangan Calilung, 40, a resident of Agbannawag, Tabuk City. 
    Seized from Calilung's residence were two sachets weighing eight grams worth P54, 400, suspected shabu weighing .5 grams worth P3, 400 and drug paraphernalia. 
    Inventory of seized items was witnessed by Lainanie Balao-ing of DOJ, media representative Melisa Guavez and barangay kagawad Bonifacio Alcodia of Agbannawag. 
    In Baguio City, an alleged online drug seller listed as regional top ten illegal drug personality was arrested in buy-bust operation in Barangay Happy Homes on Sept. 17. 
The suspect was named as Ruby Ann Salvador Santos aka “Ruby”, 31, native of Paniqui, Tarlac and resident of Quezon Hill, Baguio City. 
    Ruby” reportedly sold a sachet of suspected shabu weighing a gram worth P6,800 to an undercover  cop.  
Confiscated from her were buy-bust money and cell phone used in the transaction. 
    Inventory of confiscated items was witnessed by prosecutor Oliver Prudencio, punong barangay Eva Marie Fianza of Happy Homes and media representative Charles Nikko Limon.
    All suspects were charged for illegal drugs.

P116.389-M marijuana, oil   at Mt. Chumanchil burned

TINGLAYAN, Kalinga – Authorities discovered and burned  marijuana plants and oil worth P116,389,000 in ten plantation sites here at Mt. Chumanchil, Barangay Loccong Sept. 15 to17. 
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee said police and anti-narcotics agents uprooted 44,350 fully grown marijuana plants worth P88,490,000 from plantations. 
    Authorities also confiscated 230 kilos of dried marijuana plants worth P27,600,000 and 14 bottles of marijuana oil worth P308,000 from the sites. 
    Police are still trying to identify marijuana planters.

Cordi gov’t agencies cite Caneo, Bontoc drug-free

By Alpine L. Killa 

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Barangay Caneo of this capital town has been declared drug-free by the regional oversight committee on barangay drug clearing program. 
    The oversight committee, which is chaired by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, is composed of representatives of the Departments of the Interior and Local Government, Health, Philippine National Police and local government units.
    Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey and Lt. Rufino Alibat, deputy police chief of Bontoc, handed certificate of drug-free barangay to Caneo punong barangay Edward Ochasan during celebration of the 113th Bontoc founding anniversary on Sept. 16 at Bontoc capitol grounds. 
    Odsey commended Caneo barangay officials and constituents for their efforts in curbing illegal drugs.
He added Bontoc has been aggressively implementing the government’s anti-drug campaign since it was launched at the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in 2016.
    The declaration of a barangay as drug-free is pursuant to Dangerous Drugs Board’s Regulation 3 Series of 2017 known as “Strengthening the implementation of the barangay drug-clearing program.”
    Five barangays of Bontoc have been earlier accorded with certificates of drug-free barangay.  The five barangays are Tocucan, Gonogon, Guina-ang, Maligcong, and Bayyo. 

Tarlac cops nab robbery suspect hiding in Baguio

By Jun A. Malig 
BAGUIO CITY -- Tarlac police traced and arrested a suspected robber, who hid in this summer capital.
    Col. Renante Cabico, Tarlac police director, said Tuesday that Reymon Liquiran, 32, of Carangian village in Tarlac City, is a “priority high-value individual” and an alleged member of the Collado Criminal Gang engaged in robbery-hold-up.
    He said Liquiran went into hiding before Judge Allene Torres-Pena of the Tarlac City Regional Trial Court Branch 110 issued a warrant of arrest on July 26 for robbery, with P100,000 recommended bail.
    Cabico said the suspect was arrested at Green Valley in Baguio City.
    In a separate statement, the Police Regional Office 3 said Liquiran is on the list of their top 10 priority high-value individuals.

 Another woman shot in Tayum Abra home

TAYUM, Abra — Barely 15 hours after a female doctor was shot, another woman was wounded in an attack here by an unidentified assailant in Abra night of Sept. 19. Restaurant employee Aileen Daria was at home in Barangay Budac when the assailant barged in and shot her at around 9:30 p.m.


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