BY GLENDA TAYONA and IAN PAUL CORDERO
ILOILO City – Panay Electric Co. (PECO) is protecting its assets. More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) is protecting its franchise.
“My question is, who is protecting the interest of the Ilonggos,” asked Ilonggo senator Franklin Drilon.
Iloilo City could plunge into the “Dark Ages” if PECO, whose power distribution franchise expired just this Jan. 19, and MORE Power, which was granted by the government with a 25-year franchise, could not come to an amicable settlement, Drilon warned.
PECO is resisting the expropriation of its power distribution assets for MORE Power to use.
Drilon, who was here yesterday, said he was concerned with what would happen to Iloilo City.
Because MORE Power has no power distribution assets of its own, the Energy Regulatory Commission allowed PECO to continue operating via a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), basically a working permit.
But PECO’s CPCN would expire this May 25. Drilon said PECO won’t be able to operate without it.
“So, if MORE Power could not have legal possession of PECO’s power distribution assets, what will happen? Will we be in the Dark Ages?” asked Drilon.
He urged PECO and MORE Power to reach an amicable agreement.
“The interest of the city is at stake. We should take this into account,” Drilon stressed.
He, however, made it clear he won’t meddle in the legal battle between PECO and MORE Power.
On March 12, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 209 in Mandaluyong City issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping MORE Power from, among others, commencing expropriation proceedings against PECO.
PECO filed a petition for declaratory relief with application for a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction against MORE Power and all government agencies tasked to implement Republic Act (RA) 11212 which is MORE Power’s franchise law.
The TRO stops MORE Power from taking over PECO’s distribution assets and also halts the Department of Energy and/or Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a CPCN or provisional authority or any other permits or licenses for MORE Power to operate in Iloilo City, or if one had already been issued, suspends the same pending the resolution of the case.
“If the CPCN were to be granted, this will give rise to a situation where two electrical companies are operating in the same franchise area since PECO has the transitory authority to operate for two more years under RA 11212,” read part of RTC 209’s resolution granting the TRO.
In issuing the TRO, Presiding Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio ruled that PECO established that two provisions of RA 11212 “will materially and substantially invade its rights to equal protection under the law, due process, and against unlawful taking of property.”
“We will respect the decision of the court,” said MORE Power president Roel Castro.
PECO told the court that MORE Power can easily take away, under the guise of eminent domain, its distribution assets – poles, wires, cables, transformers, switching equipment, stations, etc. – under sections 10 and 17 of the franchise law.
RTC Branch 209 set the hearing for PECO’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction on April 2.
“That is the next step nga ginalagas namon. The moment we secure an injunction, that means ang MORE Power franchise bill on-hold na while the court is deliberating on its constitutionality,” said Marcelo Cacho, PECO administrative manager.
According to PECO, MORE Power’s franchise amounted to an arbitrary and confiscatory “takeover” of its assets./PN