ILOILO City – Panay Electric Co. (PECO) did not even get to first base. The House of Representatives’ Committee on Legislative Franchises threw out its application for a franchise renewal. Cong. Julienne Baronda, a member of the committee, opposed the renewal saying it was “against public interest.”
If PECO’s franchise which expired on Jan. 19, 2019 is renewed, Baronda said it would only create more problems.
“We will never see the end of it. And that is against public interest. That is not for the benefit and welfare of the people of Iloilo City, which I represent,” said Baronda during the committee hearing yesterday.
Congress already granted a franchise to another power distributor, MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power).
Baronda and another committee member, Cong. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, said MORE Power must be given the chance to render service to consumers of Iloilo City.
PECO had been the sole power distributor in Iloilo City for over nine decades since 1923.
“Based on our experience, I say there is, indeed, room for improvement. Being a native of Iloilo City, I have seen the highs and lows of PECO’s service. I have seen and heard the Ilonggos’ lamentations. Ninety-six years is a long time and is more than enough opportunity to perfect one’s act,” said Baronda.
PECO had been under fire in recent years for, among others, questionable billings, high rates and poor customer service.
Baronda also pointed out two legal conundrums arising from the enactment of MORE Power’s franchise law, Republic Act (RA) 11212: one, the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong declaring sections 10 and 17 of the law as unconstitutional; and two, an expropriation case filed by MORE Power against PECO still pending at the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City based on these two sections of RA 11212.
“To my mind, let us leave these legal issues for the proper courts to resolve,” said Baronda.
Former Iloilo City councilor Plaridel Nava, a staunch PECO critic who attended the House committee hearing, welcomed the decision to junk PECO’s franchise application.
“Kami ni (former) Councilor Joshua Alim, the prime movers sini, ginakabig namon ini nga daku nga kadalag-an. Ginapasalamatan namon ang tanan nga nagbuylog kag nagbulig sa amon,” said Nava.
He urged PECO to just negotiate with MORE Power for a smooth transition.
Despite the setback in the House PECO remains unfazed.
“We’ll strategize and re-file our franchise application,” said PECO administrative manager Marcelo Cacho.
There was insufficient ground to deny their application, he insisted.
While Congressman Pimentel pointed out the 194 complaints filed against PECO at the Energy Regulatory Commission, Cacho said “most have already been addressed.”
He then questioned MORE Power’s capability to distribute power in the city, pointing out that in the six months since the company was able to secure a franchise it still has to put up its own power distribution system.
“If they fail to acquire the properties and facilities of PECO due to either price issues or we do not reach an agreement, they have to set up their own assets which to this day we don’t see. In previous committee hearings they said it would take them only one year to set up all their assets,” said Cacho.
Apparently, said Cacho, the Committee on Legislative Franchises was deceived by MORE Power.
“Their only plan is to take over PECO’s business. They have no plan of their own to set up their facilities and hire their own personnel,” said Cacho./PN