ILOILO City’s new power distributor More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) has been accused of allegedly billing consumers with charges that go beyond the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) mandated cap of 6.25% on systems loss charges.
Members of Ilonggo consumer advocacy group Koalisyon Bantay Kuryente (KBK) and former power distributor Panay Electric Company (PECO) both filed complaints with the ERC on September 3, Friday. Both organizations contended that MORE Power had to refund around P20.9 million in unfair overcharges.
The amount is considered to have come from suspicious systems loss rates posted in MORE Power’s bills. It also reflects the total amount that was “illegally” billed to all of Iloilo City’s power consumers. Calculations by both KBK and PECO revealed that systems loss charges equaled more than P13 million in May and almost P7.7 million in July. The June billing cycle was not calculated as MORE Power has not yet released billings for the said month for still unknown reasons.
“The ERC should exercise its authority on MORE and investigate these matters. All these claims we are throwing—-systems loss, power outages—-we are getting these from MORE Power’s own data. From their own Facebook page and bills,” said PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho. “Based on their previous answers, MORE is just denying it and claiming that the figures are bloated. But every screen shot of their Facebook is sent to ERC.”
PECO Legal Counsel Atty. Estrella Elamparo compared the situation to the earlier similar systems-loss problems of the nationwide power provider, the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO.) Senator Sherwin Gatchalian had warned MERALCO to address the issues surrounding their systems, which had been affecting their consumers—or risk having its franchise revoked.
Atty. Elamparo stressed that MORE Power’s overbilling is not just a failure of service, but has very serious legal bearings. She pointed out, “If it is proven to the ERC that MORE Power is indeed overcharging, that should be considered a very serious violation and Congress should look into the franchise of MORE Power.,” she stressed. “We are asking the ERC to confirm the allegations. If they are found to be true, this is tantamount to outright stealing from the people of Iloilo, to the tune of over P20 million every month, or more than P200 million every year.”
Moreover, asked about the ERC’s recent statement that MORE Power has been complying with the systems loss cap, Elamparo noted that MORE Power has shown a pattern of deceit. It has previously covered up issues and pressing problems, like the power outage data despite Ilonggos suffering long and frequent 13-hour brownouts.
“MORE Power has been boasting and proclaiming itself as the rightful distributor, but every time they have a problem, they choose to blame it on us instead of fixing it,” said Cacho. “When the outages started, they blamed us for dilapidated equipment. When consumers complained about their failure to deliver bills, they blamed us. They had six months to fix these problems, problems that they have incurred on their own.”
Cacho emphasized, “It is time that MORE Power stop making excuses but fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Iloilo, wherein they are held accountable by the law.”