Congressional probe urged on Iloilo brownouts

Published May 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Myrna M. Velasco

Given protracted power interruptions – the longest of which had been 13-hour rotating outages this month due to maintenance shutdown, an investigation is being sought on the recurrence of brownouts in Iloilo City.

A resolution was lodged to the House Committee on Energy by Party List Representative Sonny Lagon, in which he is urging the Congressional body, not just to look into the socio-economic impact of the power interruptions but also the lingering dispute on electricity service provision in that economically-flourishing city.

Via House Resolution No. 785, Lagon prodded an inquiry into “the status of the distribution of electricity in Iloilo City to ensure that power distribution will not cease and that the people of Iloilo will not be affected.”

During the virtual Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel on Friday (May 22), Lagon indicated that consumers in Iloilo City suffered because of “lack of proper facilities” by newly minted electricity distributor More Electric and Power Company (MORE), which hastily took over power distribution in the area last March.

“My only concern is for the consumers of Iloilo City – that hopefully, they shouldn’t be adversely affected, especially in this time of pandemic. The problem is the long brownouts that have been happening,” the lawmaker stressed.

When power distribution was still under the charge of the Panay Electric Company (PECO), Lagon narrated that such scale of brownouts “had not been experienced so far by the consumers of Iloilo City.”

The legislator said if the city will just fully rely on what More Electric could provide them, he noted that the company “does not have complete facilities, therefore, brownouts could not be avoided.”

On the nagging dispute between PECO and More Electric, it has been emphasized that this is the first time in the history of the electric power sector that the facilities of a private utility firm – in this case PECO, had been involuntarily taken over by another privately owned industry player.

Lagon indicated that while due process may have been exercised, his assessment was that it was “hilaw” or there might have been processes shortchanged in the course of some proceedings.

For that reason, Lagon stressed “there is a need for the House of Representatives to look into this to ensure that the supply of electricity in Iloilo City will not be affected and that the people of Iloilo City shall not suffer because of the legal battle between the two distribution utilities.”

It has to be noted that the rightful ownership of the power distribution assets in Iloilo still legally resides with PECO, but its franchise expired in January 2019.

Conversely, it was More Electric that was granted with a new franchise for power distribution in the area; and that warranted it to take over power distribution in Iloilo last March – notwithstanding realities that the company has yet to establish a track record in operating a business in that very technical segment of the power industry. (MMV)