ILOILO CITY—A crackdown on illegal power connections in the city that proliferated under the old utility Panay Electric Co. (PECO) has resulted in the dismantling of 4,000 “jumpers” in 42 barangays in the city but encouraged 1,500 more applications for regular power connection.
In an update released by the new utility More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), the company said the huge number of illegal connections caught under its “Oplan Valeria” is expected to contribute to the overall improvement of the power supply situation in the city.
A technical study by engineering firm MIESCOR Corp. on the city’s electricity distribution network indicated that there were about 30,000 illegal connections that proliferated when PECO was the one handling electricity distribution in Iloilo City.
The amount of electricity pilfered from the 30,000 illegal power connections contributes to the huge system losses incurred by PECO that reached 9.3% as of 2018, and the cost of this electricity is passed on to the paying regular residential, business and industrial customers.
Iloilo City had had one of the highest electricity rates in the country, until MORE Power started operating the electricity distribution in the city last March and it lowered rates to P9 per kilowatt hour, the first time the rate fell below P10 per kilowatt hour, the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILED) noted recently.
Ariel Castaneda, head of MORE Power’s apprehension team, said that MORE Power had since strengthened to further help the consumers navigate an already streamlined process than it was before.
“We’ve shortened the process even more. Pag-submit nila ng mga papeles [As soon as they pass the necessary documents] from the City Engineer’s Office like the Electrical Safety Inspection Certificate and pay their bill deposit kahit partial lang [even if it’s only partial] – yes, even for just P1,000 – they will be installed an electric meter right away, no fuss,” Castaneda said.
He said that to date, around 1,000 residents who used to maintain illegal “jumpers” have received regular connections and their own power meters.
City residents who rely on illegal power connections have also been warned by the city government that they face jail time after City Mayor Jerry Treñas confirmed the findings of the existence of as many as 30,000 “jumpers” in the city.
Atty. Allana Babayen-on, MORE Power legal officer, earlier said that there are already six violators of the Anti-Pilferage Law charged in court for violations of the Anti-Power Pilferage Act, which prescribes a mandatory jail time of up to 12 years and/or a fine of up to P20,000 for offenders.
Jumpers are illegal power connections using “jumper cables” that bypass the meter, exposing the perpetrators to high-voltage electricity in the process which, usually, is the cause of feeder overloads, causing brownouts as well as fires from explosions, and in some cases result in the perpetrators getting burned, electrocuted or even killed.
BLESSING, SIGH OF RELIEF
For Punong Barangay John Gary Patnubay of Brgy. East Baluarte, Molo, the crackdown on jumpers comes as a blessing to finally end the usual incidents of fire traced to faulty electrical wiring which is normally the effect of jumper users in his barangay.
“I really heave a sigh of relief every time I think that we can now avoid incidents related to this illegal activity which is common here for many years now,” he said.
The official, noted for being very hands-on in assisting his constituents in the conversion of jumper users to being legitimate power consumer, said that it is the policy of MORE Power to make connections easy that has motivated his constituents to convert themselves into becoming legitimate users and stop the thieving of electricity in their locality.
“Let’s give it to MORE Power and its iKONEK Program that it launched in partnership with the city government of Iloilo to encourage city residents in securing their own regular power accounts,” he said.
“In my barangay alone, more than 80 of the 130 applications for electrification are now legally connected with the power company, 50 of which were done in one single day on Saturday. It was fast, amazingly fast,” he noted.
MORE Power president Roel Castro, for his part, emphasized that cooperation by residents and barangay officials is key to a productive and successful endeavor in the community.
“This situation in Brgy. East Baluarte, Molo definitely proves that and we expect all the other areas in the city of Iloilo to do the same for us to finally end power pilferage and further improve our distribution system,” he said.