ILOILO City – The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) slammed Panay Electric Co. (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 on Monday (today, Nov. 18) and released to the public accordingly,” said Devanadera.
Days before the press conference, PECO, through its legal team Divina Law, invited members of the Metro Manila media stating, “The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has conducted an investigation on the maintenance of the distribution lines of Panay Electric Co. (PECO) to shed light on the situation. They recently completed the investigation and we are pleased to invite you to a press briefing of PECO and its counsel, the Divina Law, on Nov. 14, Thursday, 10 a.m. so that we would be able to share the results of the findings and the outcome of the ERC hearing.”
During the press conference, PECO had a projector screen that flashed “PECO ERC PRESSCON, an enlightened past, a bright future.”
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.”
ERC investigated the pole fires after receiving a complaint from Mayor Jerry Treñas.
“In the past few days, we are alarmed to have received information that multiple fires broke out all over the city of Iloilo, the causes of which were directly attributable to poorly-maintained facilities owned by PECO,” read part of Treñas’ letter to the ERC.
According to Devanadera, “the parties concerned have been summoned by the Commission to shed light on these incidents” on Oct. 30.
ERC dispatched an inspection team in the first week of November. It looked into the various aspects of PECO’s distribution system.
The Commission likewise directed PECO to submit a written comprehensive report on the pole fire incidents.
“It would be prudent for the Commission to evaluate and analyze the situation surrounding the reported pole fire incidents holistically and not on a per incident or asset basis. The way that the poles are maintained over the years and the remaining useful life of the poles also need to be looked into. We are mindful of the urgency of resolving this matter and we wish to assure the public that this is among the priority concerns of the Commission,” said Devanadera.
Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) records submitted to the ERC showed that from Jan. 1, 2014 to Oct. 29, 2019 a total of 2,887 fire incidents occurred in Iloilo City, with pole fires numbering 1,464 cases, or 51.187 percent of all fire incidents during the almost six-year period.
Two hundred and twenty-four pole fires occurred out of the 427 fire incidents in 2014, while 228 cases of pole fires happened in 2015, 303 cases in 2016, 275 incidents in 2017, and another 233 pole fires in 2018.
A total of 201 pole fires erupted in the city from January to Oct. 27, 2019.
Iloilo City fire marshal Chief Inspector Christopher Regencia reiterated that telecommunications companies’ wires usually carry a 24-volt charge as opposed to PECO wires which has a 220-voltage charge and said, “Only electricity wires, either damaged or overloaded, can cause fires and not telephone or cable TV wires.”
PECO, whose franchise expired on Jan. 19 this year, failed to convince Congress to renew it on the heels of mounting consumer complaints on the poor quality of its service.
It is currently operating on a provisional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the ERC until the new distribution utility, More Electric and Power Corp., completes its full takeover of the city’s distribution system./PN