Tension continues in Beneco, as linemen denied use of meeting hall for typhoon preparation

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By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
www.nordis.netBAGUIO CITY — As the country braces for the onslaught of Typhoon Kiko, Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) employees lamented the displacement of linemen from Dumol Hall, where they regularly held their tailgate meetings since the pandemic started.

Network Services chief Engineer Romel Rifani told Nordis that they held meetings at the Dumol Hall to comply with required minimum health protocols since the pandemic started.

However, they were only allowed the use of the facility on September 8 since Atty. Ana Marie Rafel occupied the area. He explained that they have been conducting their tailgate meetings at the parking lot or any space within the Beneco main office they find suitable.

“We had to ask those guarding the Dumol Hall to allow us to use it [on September 8] because we were experiencing Signal No. 1 of typhoon Jolina, it was raining, they allowed us,” he said.

“But this morning (September 9), they told us that they had to ask Atty. Rafael. We decided to just hold the meeting at the lobby rather than waste time debating with them. Time is important, we have work to do,” he added.
Rifani stressed that today’s meeting was crucial because it was part of the preparations for typhoon Kiko.

He explained that they conduct tailgate meetings before they dispatch linemen every shift to discuss instructions, memoranda, job orders, and other necessary information.

Beneco linemen have three shifts: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, 4:00 PM to 12:00 midnight, and 12:00 midnight to 8:00 AM. The first shift has the most number of linemen at around 50. The second shift has about 20, and the third shift has less than 20.

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi urged public energy utilities and other industry players on September 9 to intensify their preparation for Typhoon Kiko.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) September 9, 4:00 AM forecast put the typhoon at 785 kilometers East of Baler, Aurora. It has maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 230 kilometers. Kiko follows Tropical Storm Jolina, now outbound from the country and last spotted about 145 kilometers West Northwest of Iba, Zambales.

The General Manager designated by the Beneco Board of Directors, Engineer Melchor Licoben, said that even without Cusi’s notice to prepare for the coming typhoon, Beneco would prepare for ‘Kiko.’

“Responding to calamities is not new to Beneco, we do this every time there are calamities. Our response is based on forecasts and inspection reports from the ground among others,” he said.

Licoben said they are now at the preparatory stage, which includes line inspections, logistics, and workforce checking.

Maximum tolerance

Besides Rifani, Beneco Employees Labor Union President Jefferd Monang also expressed concern about the restricted use of Dumol Hall they now experience. He said the Dumol Hall had been their go-to, being the best venue whenever many employees gather, apart from the daily tailgate meetings of linemen.

“It breaks our heart to see our linemen meeting at the parking lot or under the canopy of trees. We know the hardwork and dedication of our linemen who are dispatched even during typhoons,” Monang stressed.

He said that amid the continuing Beneco controversy, employees stay focused on serving member-consumers well.

Rifani, for his part, said they continue to abide by the instruction of Licoben.
“Our general manager Engr. Licoben, who was there this morning, cautioned us to stay calm and avoid any altercation, all throughout this issue, he has been telling us to exercise maximum tolerance, and we have been following his lead,” Rifani said.

Tension continues

Tension has run high in the Beneco since Rafael asserted herself as general manager. She stakes her claim with an appointment from the National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA).

Accompanied by a pool of lawyers and agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), she set up office at the Dumol Hall on August 30. According to employees, Rafael has also invited individuals identified with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), a defunct paramilitary group, to accompany her.

On September 4, Beneco Construction and Maintenance Officer Esteban C. Macay reported to the police that two CCTV units installed at the Pedro Dumol Hall stopped relaying feeds. The blotter report said that upon inspection, they discovered that paper bags were covering the cameras.

In a social media post, Rafael’s camp said power at the Dumol Hall was out. They claimed the outlets stopped working on September 7, and the lights followed two days after. They added that Rafael occupied Dumol Hall because Beneco refused to give her an office.

Northern Dispatch reached out to Rafael’s camp for an interview for this story. They told Nordis to contact Atty. Rocky Balisong. We sent him a message and called several times, but he has not responded as of publication.>

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