THIS writer has made no secret of his wish for MORE Electric and Power Corporation to succeed Panay Electric Company (PECO) as electricity distributor for Iloilo City. There’s more to it than the fact that the company has won legislative authority as the new power franchisee.
It’s also in keeping with insistent public demand for “change” resulting from allegations alluding to PECO’s alleged malpractices — namely overbilling, wrong meter reading, non-refund of deposits, frequency of power outages, fire-hazardous “spaghetti” wirings, excessive “system’s loss” charged to paying customers and insensitivity to legitimate complaints.
In a previous column, for instance, I cited the case of my wedding hijada Merlyn Bayombong-Pomperada, whose power line in Villa Arevalo was cut off and electricity meter confiscated while she was away on vacation in New York City.
On coming back, she immediately paid her overdue account and begged for reconnection. The PECO cashier naturally accepted her money, but somebody else demanded an additional P8,000 for reconnection and deposit. She thought it was “too much”. Why would she deposit anew? She had made that deposit long ago. She refused to comply.
I advised her to wait for MORE Power to light up her abandoned “midnight-black” residence.
On the other hand, a research made by the students from the Communications and Media Studies of the University of the Philippines-Visayas (UPV) months ago disclosed that they had discovered 525 households in Barangay Calumpang with illegal connections. The reason behind that, a barangay official revealed, was the negligence of PECO to compel “illegal settlers or squatters” to comply with PECO requirements for low-load electrical connection.
There being no legal action filed against the power pilferers, a Facebook group known as “No to PECO 25” started documenting complaints made against the power firm.
In behalf of the said group, Councilor Joshua Alim, collected some 3,5000 signatures asking Congress to refrain from renewing the PECO franchise.
The other night while monitoring the radio, I heard broadcaster Henry Lumawag announcing that President Duterte had signed the law awarding the new power franchise to MORE Power.
Yesterday morning, however, I chanced upon MORE Power’s chief executive officer, Roel Z. Castro, meeting his staff at Hotel del Rio. However, he would not confirm the radio announcement because he had not yet received a copy of the signed document. He could only confirm that, even if still unsigned, the law would take its course on that day.
Let us recall that Malacañang Palace officially received the franchise law from the Senate on January 16, to be signed not later than a month after or on February 16, 2019, which happened to be yesterday. If left unsigned, it would nevertheless lapse into law after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
Castro reiterated to us that the law would authorize his company to take over PECO’s facilities in exchange for fair compensation as provided for by the right of “eminent domain”. It does not only refer to “the power of the nation to take over a utility but also to delegate that power to a private group.”
Section 10 of the law granting the new 25-year franchise to MORE provides that “the grantee is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain in so far as it may be reasonably necessary for the efficient establishment, improvement, upgrading, rehabilitation, maintenance and operation of its services. The grantee is authorized to install and maintain its poles, wires and other facilities.”
Thank God it’s a win-win game for both the old and the new franchisees. (email@example.com/PN)