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MORE brownouts in Iloilo must stop

ILOILO City electricity consumers are outraged over the seemingly unstoppable brownouts in the city, almost on a daily basis and some lasting for as long as 13-hours, causing massive inconvenience and crippling businesses. The latest power outage was more than 10 hours which started last night, eve of Father’s Day.

Prompted by the rising agitation of consumers in Iloilo City, Party-list Representative Sonny Lagon said there is a need for the House of Representatives to look into this to ensure that the supply of electricity in Iloilo will not be affected and that the people of Iloilo City shall not suffer any longer because of the battle between the two distribution utilities.

“Ang concern ko lang talaga is yung mga consumers ng Iloilo, na sana hindi sila ma-apektuhan, lalo na ngayong pandemic. Ang problema ko talaga kasi is yung mga long brownouts na nangyayari,” Lagon said.

“I also enjoin the DOE and the ERC to investigate this matter at the soonest. Power is not something the consumers should have to worry about, especially with the pandemic right now, “ Lagon adds.

Aside from the relentless power service interruptions, consumers are also incensed at widespread exorbitant electric bills or erroneous billing calculations of the recently designated power distribution utility More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE), which the consumers claimed does not even have a direct contract with them.

Jose Allen Aquino, coordinator of the Koalisyon Bantay Kuryente (KBK), a group advocating for consumers’ rights and welfare across Panay island, added “the brownouts have been happening at longer durations and they almost occur on a daily basis and this is clearly a disservice to the people of Iloilo City.”

He lamented the fact that when consumers would call the office of MORE to inquire on the causes of the frequent power interruptions, the company does not have ready answer and cannot offer an immediate solution or action on warranted service restoration.

Erroneous billings, Aquino said, are clear-cut violations of the rights and welfare of consumers and this legitimately requires an investigation by the ERC, similar to the probes that the regulatory body has been carrying out against the other power utilities in the country.

Ruperto Supena, KBK interim chairman, also disclosed that “almost 40,000 informal settlers, especially those living in the shorelines for decades, were offered instant connection of electricity by MORE but were eventually asked to sign a waiver which technically puts them at risk of being evicted from the property they’ve called home for many years.”

He pointed out these electricity service connections offered by MORE “were without inspection nor proper requirements.”

“The burden of the Iloilo City consumers is being aggravated by electric bills that had escalated without clear explanation from MORE as to why the calculations turned out to be prohibitive and beyond the expectations of the end-users,” he adds.

Abang Lingkod Party-List Representative Joseph Steven Paduano also echoed the calls for immediate probe into the Iloilo power issue.

“Once again, our argument on the issue proves us correct! And during this time of a pandemic it is more highlighted that the leaders of this country, in all branches of government involved in this power crisis, and that includes Congress, must show the people of Iloilo our sense of urgency to settle this issue the soonest possible time,” Paduano said.

For his part, PHILRECA partylist representative Congressman Presley de Jesus said that the Iloilo power situation is getting to be very alarming as the spate of brownouts adversely affect the health and safety of the Ilonggos and also paralyzes business operations, especially the MSMEs which is a significant chunk of the Iloilo business landscape.

“There is a need for the House Energy Committee and the ERC to look into the power situation in Iloilo to ensure the reliability and stability of the power supply and distribution,” de Jesus said.

Consumers have bombarded MORE Power’s website with complaints and angry posts emanating from what they describe as very poor service coming from the apparent incompetence of the MORE people.

They also blasted MORE for blaming Panay Electric Company (PECO) for the massive outages and said that they never experienced this long, frequent and agonizing brownouts during PECO’s watch.