ILOILO City – Aside from courting the ire of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Panay Electric Co. (PECO) has also angered telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) for attributing incidents of pole fires in this city to telephone companies.
PLDT vice president for Visayas Rene Lescano clarified they only have 2,000 poles in Iloilo City and of these, only 800 are wooden compared to PECO’s 30,000 poles.
As defense to the complaint of Mayor Jerry Treñas to the ERC about the pole fires, PECO claimed that between 2017 to 2019 the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) recorded 709 post fires and that only 138 of these involved its own poles while 571 involved those of telcos.
“It’s a lie. It is not correct to say that the more than 500 posts are ours. We have very few wooden poles compared to theirs,” said Lescano who previously served as PLDT Iloilo manager.
He also insisted that it was not the poles that started the fires but the electrical wires of PECO.
PLDT’s messenger wires are without voltage, made of steel and serve as tension to their copper and fiber cables and connected to the ground for lightning protection, Lescano stressed.
In recent media interviews, Marcelo Cacho, head of PECO’s Public Engagement and Government Affairs, said PLDT’s messenger wires also have high voltage.
But Lescano said only PLDT’s copper cable has voltage but very minimal – 24 volts if idle and peaks at 49 volts only if in use.
“It’s just like a volt of a battery which can never cause fire of the magnitude responded to by the BFP when they were called to address pole fires incidents,” said Lescano.
According to the PLDT executive, “It is clear among engineers and utility companies that the said fires originated from PECO’s electrical wires, but since our lines and cables are closely attached to their secondary lines, they get burned in the process.”
Lescano agreed with Iloilo City fire marshal Chief Inspector Christopher Regencia’s explanation that only electricity wires, either damaged or overloaded, could actually cause fires.
“Maybe Cacho, who is not an engineer, has no knowledge at all. Or is he just using us as scapegoat?” asked Lescano.
Lescano was one of the founders of the Iloilo City public utilities group where PECO is also a member.
“I really feel bad about this. PECO is making these claims but it has never told us about this upfront everytime we meet with other utility companies,” said Lescano.
More than half or 1,464 cases out of 2,887 incidents of fire in Iloilo City since January 2014 were caused by pole fires, according to BFP- Iloilo City.
PECO has no trained technical people to solve the problem, BFP reported to the ERC.
The other day, ERC slammed PECO for making it appear that the agency was part of a recent press conference that the franchise-less power distributor held in Metro Manila.
ERC remains independent in the discharge of its functions, including the conduct of investigations, stressed Chairperson Agnes Devanadera.
“The ERC has no participation, in any manner, in the said (Nov. 14) press conference,” stressed Devanadera.
ERC has completed its field inspection and data gathering on the series of pole fire incidents in this city.
“The findings of the technical team will be presented to the Commission and released to the public accordingly,” said Devanadera.
Criticizing the press conference, Devanadera stressed, “Premature reporting of the outcome of our investigation is but a product of speculation that serves no purpose, except to confuse the public.”/PN