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More power faces monopoly charges

MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) is now facing charges of anti-competition and monopolistic practices at the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

The PCC is an independent quasi-judicial body created to promote and maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct. It is mandated to ensure fair competition in the market for the benefit of consumers and businesses.

The complaint filed by Panay Electric Company (PECO) with the PCC alleged that MORE Power has infringed on the prohibition of monopoly as set by the 1987 Constitution; Republic Act 9136 (also known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA); and Republic Act 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act.

In the absence of legal and fair competition, and emboldened by a weakened consumer base, MORE Power’s services to the people are expected to further deteriorate with nobody holding them to account, PECO alleged. The overall result would block Iloilo City’s economic progress, in effect dealing a crippling, perhaps irrecoverable blow to a dynamic region widely recognized to be a rising star in the Philippine business landscape.

The complaint pointed out that MORE Power violated the aforementioned republic acts when it wrested control of PECO’s management and forcibly expropriated its assets, facilities, and clientele.

Although Republic Act 11212 granted MORE Power the authority to operate a franchise in the electrical services in February 2020, it did not purchase any property or invest in any other equipment necessary for its franchise, but acquired those that belonged to PECO.

That PECO was its only competitor in the industry and the region underscored MORE Power’s intention to establish a monopolistic presence in Iloilo City, which goes against the Philippines’ antitrust laws. As Section 19, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution states: “The State shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed.”

The PECO complaint further cemented its position against MORE Power’s monopolistic tactics, stating, “MORE conveniently acquired no private property necessary for its franchise except those belonging to its only competitor – PECO. By doing so, MORE successfully incapacitated PECO from engaging in the same business thereby eliminating any competition, and creating a monopoly for itself.”

PECO Legal Counsel Atty. Estrella Elamparo pointed out the precedent that MORE Power’s unscrupulous attempt to establish a monopoly can set.

”Eliminating one’s competitors to ensure absolute dominance over an industry is the very essence of anti-competitive conduct. Here, instead of building its own distribution system capable of keeping up with PECO’s existing assets, MORE, under the guise of expropriation, picked the easy way and simply took PECO’s facilities and clientele. In this way, MORE avoided competing against a seasoned player and, at the same time, gained dominance over the industry,” she noted.

MORE Power’s monopoly over the power sector of Iloilo City will inevitably prevent other competitors from entering the market. This absence of competition will make the Ilonggos, who are already suffering both exorbitant billings and crippling power failures, even more dependent on MORE Power.

Elamparo further noted, “MORE Power should stop making excuses but deliver the services they are obligated under law to fulfill. Otherwise, the people will not have the services they are paying for—and neither will they have the voice and the power to keep their providers in check. If left unchecked, we will end up with MORE having a monopolistic hold on the power sector of Iloilo, which will have a devastating impact on the economy of Iloilo.”

Consumer estimates of MORE Power’s overbilling of the Ilonggos have exceeded P20 million over the past few months. The Koalisyon Bantay Kuryente (KBK), an Iloilo City consumer advocacy group, has formally filed its complaint with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to demand an investigation into MORE Power—and order a refund, if the allegations are proven true.

“The worst part of it all is that it is the people of Iloilo City who will suffer,” said PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho. “Everything they’ve done was to gain control over our distribution facilities, arguing that they can do better than we did. But they are resorting to coverups and concealing the truth to hide the fact that they cannot deliver on their promises.”###

Publication Source :    People's Journal