(PNA file photo)

BAGUIO CITY – Electric Cooperatives (EC) or distribution utilities in the Cordilleras are enjoined to shift to fiber optics to allow the internet signal provided by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to reach far-flung communities and provide for the educational needs of students.

Lawyer Delmar Cariño, legal and community relations manager of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco), on Saturday said “the marching order for all ECs now is to exploit what electricity can bring for countryside development in terms of tapping the potentials of ECs for internet services and other business opportunities.”

He said National Electrification Administration (NEA) chief Edgardo Masongsong took note of the blended learning approach the Department of Education (DepEd) has approved for this school year which is set to open by August.

Cariño said the order stated that "ECs must fast-track the installation of their fiber optic lines to be able to go for internet service and respond to the need for digital transformation."

The NEA, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) have earlier forged an agreement for the use of fiber optic to provide free internet services to public institutions as part of the national broadband project of the government.

But for residential and commercial customers, Masongsong urged the ECs to explore the possibility of engaging joint ventures or build, operate and transfer (BOT) schemes with private investors.

These contracts will ensure provision of efficient internet services especially at this time when work from home arrangements have become a regular practice for private and public enterprises, he said.

In the locality, Beneco has brought high capability internet connectivity from DICT to 13 public institutions using the fiber optic cables of Beneco since the forging of the agreement.

Among them are the Philippine National Police headquarters in Baguio, Benguet and Cordillera Administrative Region, Benguet State University, Baguio city hall, Baguio General Hospital (BGH), and Benguet General Hospital, among others. Cariño said they also forged an agreement with Converge, a private internet provider that connects individual houses to the worldwide web.

Cariño also said Masongsong gave the order in a video message on June 30 to all 121 ECs nationwide.

The NEA administrator regularly addresses ECs as a moral boost amid the pandemic.

There are five ECs in the Cordillera Administrative Region: Kalinga-Apayao Electric Cooperative, Ifugao Electric Cooperative, Mountain Province Electric Cooperative, Abra Electric Cooperative and Benguet Electric Cooperative that distributes electricity in Baguio and Benguet.

In his message, Masongsong urged all the ECs, including those in the region to be more aggressive and assertive in looking for windows to harness their power. With internet also being provided to the offices and the households, Cariño said the NEA chief also urged ECs to continue to maintain and upgrade their system for a more reliable supply of power.

“Expect a surge in the demand among residential and business establishment in the coming months. The anchor is “good electricity service,” he said. “This can be achieved in terms of a steady supply of power, addressing unplanned power outages and restoring power with dispatch,” Masongsong said. (PNA)