January 29, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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Judge orders bank to unfreeze Beneco fund

BAGUIO CITY: The Regional Trial Court (RTC) has ordered China Savings Bank Inc. to unfreeze the account of Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) so it can pay its obligations to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).”The plaintiff China Savings Bank Inc, is hereby directed to process and allow the withdrawal by Beneco in the amount of P45,724,054.85 from its account with plaintiff bank to be utilized for the payment of Beneco’s obligation to NGCP,” RTC Branch 7 Presiding Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog said in her Nov. 24, 2022 decision.Judge Archog’s order averted the impending disconnection of Beneco from the grid that could result in a massive blackout in Baguio City and the province of Benguet.The NGCP is the operator of the power grid that brings the electricity generated by the power supplier of Beneco.Judge Archog’s decision was a result of Civil Case 9502-R filed by China Bank Savings Inc. versus the camps of Beneco general manager Melchor Licoben and lawyer Omar Mayo of the National Electrification Administration and lawyer Ana Maria Paz Rafael.Licoben’s camp, through their lawyer Atty. Delmar O. Carino, informed the court of the NGCP’s billing for October 2022 for its regulated transmission charges.”The bill must be paid on or before November 25, 2022 or suffer penalties and the threat of disconnection from the grid,” Carino informed the court in his motion for release of deposit.”In view of the agreement of both parties during the November 17, 2022 hearing, that pending resolution of the Court of Appeals on who is the duly appointed general manager of Beneco, Beneco will submit its power bills and obligations due to its power suppliers accompanied by supporting documents to the Court, then the court shall issue an Order directing the plaintiff bank to process and allow withdrawal of funds for payment of Beneco’s obligations, the Court hereby grants the motion,” Judge Archog’s order stated.Licoben shall furnish the Court with proof of payment of the NGCP bill for the October 2022 billing within three days upon payment.Transmission system charge paid to NGCP is the second biggest amount paid by power consumers under the unbundled rates following the mandate of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.Epira privatized the generation and transmission sectors of the power industry.It can be recalled that Beneco’s financial difficulties started when its accounts in various local banks were frozen following the machinations of Mayo and Rafael’s camp after their failed takeover last Oct. 18, 2021.Aside from NGCP, Beneco also has unpaid obligations from its power supplier TEAM Energy.

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