By Myrna M. Velasco
As recurring brownouts and billing inaccuracies have reportedly tormented consumers in Iloilo City on recurring basis, Panay Electric Company (PECO) is seeking the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for its provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to be reinstated so it can continually serve the electricity needs of consumers in the area.
The company has cited the lack of track record and technical competence; as well as the failure of More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE) to deliver on its service commitments as the legal basis for PECO’s filing of a supplemental motion with the regulatory body so it can regain power distribution venture in Iloilo.
PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo U. Cacho told reporters in a press briefing that “unprecedented 13-hour brownouts happened in the middle of the pandemic and in the heat of the summer.”
He similarly cited heaps of complaints from consumers that their electricity bills have skyrocketed – with one business owner billed higher even if he reduced operations to just the level of 35-percent.
It was further noted that even dispatch of billings retrogressed to a very ‘out-of-date’ system wherein consumers have to get their bills from the plaza because these are not being delivered to them in their addresses.
“The people of Iloilo don’t deserve this. This is highly irregular, highly unnormal; as they are serviced by a highly inexperienced distribution company that reneged on so many promises they’ve made,” Cacho said; while noting that such predicaments must be rectified because “Iloilo has bright potential and bright future; and power is very essential.”
He further lamented that in the chronic blame-game because of MORE’s substandard services and on its culpabilities in catering to the needs of customers, it always opted to toss recriminations on PECO by stating that it had carried out the brownout-inducing maintenance shutdowns because of the needed upgrade of the facilities.
He argued that while distribution facilities and equipment will cyclically need repair and maintenance downtimes, these must be planned and timed appropriately so it will not unduly cause inconvenience to consumers or trigger economic losses especially for operating businesses.
Had the maintenance shutdown happened during their watch without the hasty takeover in March, Cacho emphasized that PECO planned of acquiring and installing a mobile substation, so the rolling power interruptions could have been prevented.
He said for a power distribution company to efficiently serve consumers, “you must have experience,” and had MORE been technically competent and experienced in power distribution, the long and rolling brownouts should not have been experienced by consumers in Iloilo City.
Atty Estrella C. Elamparo, counsel for PECO, stated that the supplemental motion had been filed with the ERC on May 22; with a plea for the company to have its CPCN brought back given that the “inspection report” which served as the legal basis for MORE’s takeover of its facilities in March had not been furnished yet to the aggrieved utility firm until to-date; and it is also nowhere to be found in the records of the case at the ERC; hence, that is tantamount to denying PECO of its right to due process.
And on the claims of MORE that the power outages had been happening because of the dilapidated facilities of PECO, Elamparo noted that under Republic 11212 or the MORE franchise, it was not mandatory for MORE to pursue expropriation proceedings on the PECO assets.
Instead, MORE had been given the option to install its own facilities, but she said MORE had not done it simply because it found the assets of PECO still economically viable for its own business use.