Napocor loses collection suit vs co-op in Benguet
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—The Court of Appeals (CA) has stopped the National Power Corp. (Napocor) from collecting more than P160 million in what is called underbilling charges from a local electric cooperative, saying the problem was Napocor’s fault.
Napocor, in the last 10 years, has been trying to collect P165.6 million, representing underbilling charges and interests, from Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco), which was erroneously charged half of the correct cost for electricity it had distributed to Benguet province and Baguio City from 2000 to 2004.
But the CA’s 16th Division affirmed a 2010 ruling by the regional trial court in La Trinidad town in Benguet that said Napocor was responsible for installing the wrong metering system and must suffer its “costly mistake.”
In its Aug. 29 decision received here last week, the CA said Napocor had no right to direct Beneco, its franchise distributor, to pay because the mistake was “solely attributable to Napocor’s gross negligence in failing to immediately discover such error in its metering device.”
The court said it was Beneco that discovered the problems, which allowed Napocor and the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) to confirm the metering error.
But Napocor, “in an effort to veer away from responsibility,” claimed that Beneco “was equally guilty by feigning ignorance for a long period,” the court said.
It said neither Napocor nor Transco was entitled to half of what Beneco should have been charged. “It was incumbent upon Napocor to protect its business interest,” it said.
The court, the decision said, should not be expected to intervene and “extricate a businessman from the consequences of a bad bargain.”
“Even if it were true that Beneco obtained unwarranted benefits in this case, it is hard to fault it for being opportunistic. Beneco [as] a business entity… will accept whatever good fortune that comes its way,” it said.
The CA said Beneco was also entitled to a prompt payment discount privilege, which Napocor and Transco revoked because of the billing dispute. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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