A reason why we welcome Razon

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WHEN Enrique Anselmo “Ricky” Razon Jr. was born in Manila on March 3, 1960, Panay Electric Company (PECO) had been operating for 37 years as sole electricity provider in Iloilo City.

Today, PECO – a corporation of the Cacho family – is very old at 95. In that sense, it’s more fortunate than most Iloilo-based companies that have quit, more “subok na matibay, subok na matatag” than the dissolved Filipino bank with that slogan.  It’s too bad, however, that the company has not modernized – as if time has stood still since its birth in 1923.

On the other hand, Razon at 58 has become one of the top 10 billionaires in the Philippines. With a net worth of US$3.8 billion as of September this year, he is chairman and chief executive officer of International Container Terminal Services, the world-class Solaire Resort, and the new MORE Electric and Power Corporation, among other companies.

A graduate of BS Business Administration from De La Salle University, Razon inherited the aforesaid port-handling giant – serving ports in Manila, Subic, Batangas, General Santos City, Poland, and Brazil – from his father.

It is not the intention of this writer to compare Ricky Razon to his PECO counterpart, Luis Miguel Castro. On the contrary, what motivates us is the need to reconcile the two, vis-à-vis the impending transition from the 25-year PECO to MORE Power as power franchisee. After all, the bill awarding the new franchise to MORE Power has been passed on third reading in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and is expected to clear the bicameral committee and be signed into law by the President.

The people’s call for modernization that fell on PECO’s deaf ears was what prompted congressmen and senators to junk PECO’s application for renewal of franchise and to go for MORE’s instead.  Visible to the naked eyes are unsightly “spaghetti” wires swinging from pole to pole; improperly installed electric meters (too high for eyes to see accurately), resulting in wrong reading and overbilling; and “jumpers” that connect power lines to the pilferers’ houses.

The Sangguniang Panglunsod likewise heeded the people’s call by passing a resolution calling for non-renewal of PECO franchise.

Obviously, the aforesaid bits of information reached the attention of Razon, who is not new to the power business.  Probably unknown to most Ilonggos yet, he owns 30 per cent of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

And with Roel Z. Castro sitting as president of MORE Power, why doubt the company’s reliability to take over PECO? He had also been the pioneering president of the Palm Concepcion Power Corporation, a coal-fired power plant in Concepcion, Iloilo.

The seeming “unpreparedness” of MORE Power to take over would be no problem in the long run because of its logistical capacity to install power lines or buy PECO’s still usable equipment within a transition period stipulated in the franchise bill.

As Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi once told the Manila media in case PECO refuses to implement the transition provision, the Department of Energy would sequester its facilities and operations.

However, it is now unlikely for PECO to resist MORE’s takeover. As already reported, PECO’s administrative manager, Marcelo Cacho, recently told a TV interviewer, “PECO will continue to operate for two more years in the transition period, worst case scenario.”

During a chance meeting at Hotel del Rio, Castro assured this writer that a transition period of only three to six months would suffice to complete the turnover. He would be open to absorbing PECO personnel depending on their qualification and moral character.

“Yes,” he said, “I would be happy to discuss the details of the transition period with top-level PECO executives.” (hvego31@gmail.com/PN)

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