By Ben Rosario
An irate Iloilo lawmaker on Monday vowed to call for a congressional inquiry into the blackouts that hit Iloilo City for two days last month.
Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda said both the Department of Energy and the Panay Electric Co. owe the public an explanation. She vowed to call for the exercise of congressional oversight if local officials are not convinced with the explanation.
City officials have blamed PECO, the sole power distributor in the city, for alleged negligence that led to the debilitating power situation on October 29 and 30.
“On the issue of recent blackouts we have written the DOE seeking for its thorough explanation on the October29 and October 30 incidents. Should the explanations of these agencies turn out to be wanting, we might exercise the congressional oversight power of the House Committee on Energy,” she said.
Earlier, Baronda urged the Energy Regulatory Commission to speed up the resolution of the complaint filed by the Iloilo City government against PECO in connection with pole fires that threatened the city.
“We understand that ERC is already attending to the complaints lodged against PECO. We will check with ERC about the status of the complaints,” she said.
Baronda noted that Iloilo City Fire Marshal Inspector Christopher Regencia has reported that at least 1,464 cases out of the 2887 incidents of fire in the city since 2014 were caused by faulty electricity wiring in street poles.
Regencia’s claim formed the basis for Mayor Jerry Trenas to ask the ERC to investigate PECO.
Regencia insisted that based on his experience, street pole fires are cause by high-voltage electric wires and not by the low voltage wires put up by telecommunication and cable TV companies with the same poles.
In his report, Regencia said the public safety threat should be addressed immediately.
In his complaint Trenas chided PECO for the “inadequately-maintained lines, power outages and hazardous electric posts” because of the numerous and continuing cases of electricity pole fires in the city.
BFP records submitted by Regencia 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-years 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 October 27, 2019, and the cases continue to rise even as more similar incidents happen,
The fire department listed the official reason for these incidents as “Short Circuit Secondary Service Lines,” which basically meant exposed electricity wires bursting into flames after short circuiting and burning the wooden poles where they were connected.