Iloilo consumers appeal to SC vs MORE brownouts

June 29, 2020
Ilonggo consumers protest
Ilonggo consumers protest against brownouts before the Supreme Court.

AS intensified clamor for efficient and dependable service continue to fall on deaf ears, aggrieved Iloilo consumers elevated their protests before the Supreme Court against the alleged incompetent power distribution service that MORE Electric and Power Corporation has been rendering them.

During a rally in front of the highest court in Manila today, June 29, the Ilonggo Consumers Movement (ICM)  cried foul over the perennial brownouts that they have been suffering from in the last four months or since the time MORE took over the distribution of electricity in the city last March. “We appeal to the Supreme Court to uphold the decision that they are illegally taking over the distribution utility,” the group said.

The Iloilo consumers cited that these power interruptions lasted 13 hours in several instances and there are also sporadic brownouts happening almost on a daily basis, hence, they bewailed these incidents to have been crippling them and driving Iloilo city’s economic growth backwards and practically wiping out the gains achieved in recent years. Iloilo City has a a good mix of thriving industries and business establishments, all of which are badly affected by the constant and long power outages.

“This is no longer an issue that MORE is capable of or interested in solving. The government must step in, otherwise, MORE will continue to abuse their power by depriving us of ours,” said  Willian Espinosa, founder of ICM .

"The lights are out in Iloilo because of MORE, they are crippling us. Where in the Philippines will you see tens of thousands of households losing power for 13-hours because of ‘preventive maintenance’? Where else in the country is this happening again and again and again? " adds Eduardo Cruz, co-founder of ICM.

The Ilonggo consumers said they will also raise this concern to President Rodrigo Duterte so he will step in and direct the relevant government agencies like the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to fairly and squarely resolve the deteriorating electricity service in Iloilo and for the national government as a whole to ensure that there is no party being favored in the decision process.

“If they will not listen to us, then we will appeal directly to the President, to Congress and to the Supreme Court so that they may intervene and save us from this disaster,” Espinosa said.

Several lawmakers already called for investigation on the worsening power situation in Iloilo City, including related concerns of inflated electricity bills and erroneous billings.

“Some of the bills are suspiciously higher than normal when our usage either hasn’t changed or has actually gone down.  What’s worse is they can’t even send us our bills. They’ve been forcing us to go to them to collect the bills, exposing us to the virus, and in some cases, we wait in line for 5 hours only to be told they do not have our bills,”Cruz added.

He emphasized that when MORE took over the function of electricity distribution in Iloilo City in March, “MORE promised us more power, but instead, they betrayed us and what we’ve been getting are long and frequent brownouts.”

Even more disappointing was that, rather than MORE addressing the frequent brownouts transparently and with sincerity, it is doing the reverse by ignoring the consumers’ complaints and was just gobbling up profit notwithstanding its very poor and inefficient service.

“MORE had its chance to turn things around and give Iloilo City the service it deserves, but they will not listen to us – the public. They are only interested in our money, and do not care if we are suffering,” Espinosa said.

He noted “this is just like a sick game to MORE, where all they do is trick us into paying them money for nothing because they knew it too well that they don’t have the technical competence and expertise in handling power distribution. They are no longer just leaving us in darkness, they are killing us and then burying the remains.”

With the two-year leeway that MORE had since the time it applied for a franchise and its promise of P1.8 billion investments,  Espinosa said  said the company should have already gained leverage at hiring the right personnel and technical people and to aptly prepare itself in the operation of power distribution equipment and facilities, but those have not been concretized.

Cruz  also pointed out that while Iloilo was  already gaining traction as one of the country’s fastest developing urban centers, those ‘economic wins’ are getting eroded because of the catastrophic brownouts, that in turn are adversely disrupting key establishments in the city, including health facilities and is also putting at risk the ‘blended learning program’ of the government because that will need electricity as its major anchor.

He noted “Iloilo City is done with MORE Power, we have run out of patience. They don’t deserve our money and Ilonggos want them gone. The only reason why they were given a chance to operate here was to give us power, and they have failed repeatedly. If they think they still have a chance with the consumers of Iloilo, then they are wrong.”