ILOILO City – If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Its failure to secure a power distribution franchise from Congress last year has not deterred Panay Electric Co. (PECO), the sole power distributor here for over nine decades, from again seeking a franchise renewal.
PECO’s franchise expired on Jan. 19 this year. Congress decided to grant a new power distribution franchise to a new company, the MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power).
But PECO administrative manager Marcelo Cacho said MORE Power’s franchise is “non-exclusive”, thus “you can have many franchise holders in one area, no limitation.”
Cong. Joseph Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list filed PECO’s franchise bill last week in the House of Representatives and this was referred to the Committee on Legislative Franchises.
Paduano was one of the co-authors of PECO’s previous franchise renewal bill.
PECO applied for a renewal of franchise in July last year but the Lower House’s Committee on Legislative Franchises conducted only two hearings.
In recent years, PECO faced mounting criticism from dissatisfied consumers complaining of erroneous billing, poor customer service and high rates, among others.
PECO was established in 1923 and had been serving the consumers of Iloilo City continuously.
Former Iloilo City councilor Atty. Joshua Alim, a PECO critic who campaigned against the nonrenewal of the company’s franchise last year, urged current city officials to protect consumers upon learning of the filing of PECO’s franchise bill last week in the House of Representatives.
“I trust that the mayor of the city, the congresswoman, vice mayor, and councilors will do something,” he said.
While it currently has no franchise, PECO continues to distribute power in Iloilo City. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) granted it a provisional authority to operate – via a certificate of public convenience and necessity or CPCN – because the new power franchisee in the city, MORE Power, still has no distribution system of its own.
ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera, however, stressed that its issuance of a CPCN must not be construed as extending PECOs’ expired franchise.
According to ERC, a CPCN was issued to PECO “to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity in Iloilo City.”
“Under the law, we (the ERC) are authorized to grant PECO the necessary provisional CPCN during the interim period or until More Electric and Power Corp., the legislative franchisee, has established and can fully operate its own distribution system,” stressed Devanadera.
ERC cited Section 17 of Republic Act 11212 (the franchise law of MORE Power) that specifically states PECO shall, in the interim, be authorized to operate the existing distribution system within the franchise area (Iloilo City), as well as implement its existing power supply agreements with generation companies that had been provisionally or finally approved by ERC.
It added that PECO shall operate the power distribution system until the establishment or acquisition by MORE Power of its own distribution system and its complete transition towards full operations, which period shall in no case exceed two years from the grant of the legislative franchise./PN