Iloilo power issue clarified

July 09, 2020

ILOILO City’s officials, including its lone congresswoman, are up in arms against the old utility firm Panay Electric Co. (PECO) for confusing Ilonggos on who is the real and legitimate distribution utility that manages the city’s electricity distribution system.

Rep. Julienne Baronda, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy, said PECO has clearly refused to accept it has lost its congressional franchise and its provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission.

“ PECO has raised a lot of issues after it was not given a new congressional franchise and its provisional permit to operate was not granted anew by the ERC,” Baronda said in reference to the continuing publicity events conducted by PECO to push its claim to the ownership of the iloilo City power distribution franchise.

The solon said those activities tend to sow “confusion as to who is the real and legal distribution utility in Iloilo City.”

Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo Treñas had previously expressed displeasure at PECO’s insistence it is still the city’s rightful distribution utility and had to issue a public statement asking the city’s residents to disregard the old utility’s claim as false and asking them to recognize MORE Power as the legitimate utility running the city;s power distribution system and holder of the legal permit to operate from the ERC.

Baronda said that “since PECO already filed several cases and will not accept the fact that it was denied a franchise by Congress, I advise PECO to await the final ruling of the Supreme Court.”

“I pray that PECO will heed the appeal for sobriety and wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the issue it raised on the constitutionality of the law passed by Congress,” she added.

For his part, Iloilo City Councilor Alan Zaldivar was fuming mad over what he called a “desperate act” on the part of PECO in its recent publicity push for news reports claiming that Iloilo City council members, including him, were livid in anger over the power outages caused by the rehabilitation and preventive maintenance work conducted by MORE Power on several substations in the city to stop their further decay.

Zaldivar said PECO was clearly behind the news reports that quoted him complaining about the brownouts after MORE Power officials led by its President, Roel Z. Castro, appeared in the City Council’s investigation into the issue and revealed the repair works were necessary because PECO left a “rotting, decrepit” distribution system.

Castro had told the City Council that in the technical inspection that MORE Power commissioned, the MIESCOR Engineering Services Corp. discovered 900 points in the city’s electricity distribution system that were “hotspots” or nearing collapse or even causing damage to life and property if they explode like old transformers overheating because their lubricant oil had not been replaced but repainted to look as new and old distribution wires that are close to being exposed to the element every day as weather and time weaken their rubber or PVC coating.

“The repair and maintenance that we have been implementing are necessary to extend the life of the substations and prevent breakdowns which could lead to massive and prolonged brownouts,” Castro stressed during the city council’s recent fact-finding session.

Zaldivar said he was particularly livid at a newspaper that quoted him as saying to Castro during the City Council’s public hearing that “our clear message to MORE is that, you are not ready to give quality service to Iloilo City.”

“National tabloids even bannered stories indicating that I castigated Mr. Castro, which is a total lie. I have not, in any way, castigated or imputed anything bad against the president of MORE. In fact, we were so thankful at the City Council for MORE’s presence in the Fact-Finding investigation because MORE cleared all the air of doubts regarding the prevailing power situation in the city of Iloilo. And we really appreciate that kind gesture, a gesture that the former composition of the City Council never had during the time of PECO,” Zaldivar said.

He said that what seemed to be a PECO-instigated news article depicting him to be publicly condemning MORE Power’s management of the distribution system maliciously intended to mislead the public into thinking the City Council members remained unhappy with MORE Power’s performance when it started operating the city’s power distribution system.

Zaldivar said that on the contrary, the city councilors appreciated Castro’s open report on what is happening to the city’s electricity distribution system and the preventive maintenance work being done by MORE Power to avert worse power outages and danger to the life and property of Ilonggos.

He pointed out that in comparison, PECO and its officials refused to appear twice when summoned by the City Council and even told the City Council that it is only responsible to the ERC and to the House of Representatives, which convinced majority of the City Council to campaign in Congress against the renewal of PECO’s franchise that expired in January 2019.