Consumers enraged at more brownouts

March 11, 2020

POWER consumers in Iloilo City are outraged by the brownouts taking place, just one week after ports and gambling magnate Enrique Razon’s More Electric and Power Company (MORE) forcibly took over operations of five of Panay Electric Company’s (PECO) substations.

In an advisory released on MORE’s Facebook page, the company noted that it took more than two hours to finish the restoration of unscheduled power interruptions in the areas of Brgy. Santo Niño, Brgy. Santo Niño Norte, Calaparan in Arevalo district, and Calumpang in the Molo district.

MORE attributes the interruption to a “momentary line fault,” although experts say that the resumption of power should have been much earlier.

Netizens were quick to take to social media to express their grievances with the slow service. “Ano ba MORE? Bago pa lang kamo, duha ka na oras brownout di,” said Rolando Dabao

“Expect brownouts pa MORE,” commented Victor Bernardo.

Some consumers complained that MORE was not responsive to queries on the company’s steps to rectify the situation, with Pol Ibarreta saying “wala na si MORE ga reply sa Facebook.”

I-Konsumidor, a group of power consumers in Iloilo City, feel that the power struggle between MORE and PECO is doing nothing but put consumers at a disadvantage.

“We must take note that MORE Power’s franchise in Republic Act 11212 provides that PECO must first settle its obligations to the consumers before wrapping up its operations,” the group said. “We cannot rely on MORE because it is not bound to settle such obligations to us when it eventually takes over the distribution services.”

The group also questioned the surprising speed at which MORE was granted a Provisional Authority by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), emphasizing their concern that it could become the basis for MORE to bill consumers.

“MORE is running the facilities, but PECO is the one who has contracts with power generators. These contracts cannot be assigned to MORE,” said the group.

“If MORE will start billing us after two months, what will be the basis of their rates? We don’t know because there was no application nor did we attend or even learn of any public hearing on their application for provisional authority to enter into a Power Supply Agreement,” added the group.

Before MORE acquired its franchise through Republic Act 11212, PECO was the sole power provider In Iloilo City for 95 years, going back to the post-World War Two rehabilitation efforts. On the other hand, MORE only entered the energy industry just two years ago, and at the time it was allegedly a small-scale mining company by the name of MORE Mineral Corporation.

PECO is not alone in its proclamation that MORE does not have the technical capability to operate the power distribution facilities. Section 17 of RA 11212, MORE’s own franchise, states that PECO “shall in the interim be authorized to operate the existing distribution system.”

Judge Emerald Contreras from Iloilo RTC Branch 23 even declared in an addendum to the writ of possession that she issued earlier that “the operation should still be handled by PECO personnel who have the technical expertise.” On March 6, following MORE’s takeover, Judge Contreras ordered MORE to return operations to PECO, stating that she was still uncertain of MORE’s technical capability.

“The Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong has already said that what MORE is trying to do is unconstitutional, but they keep trying to use misrepresentations and blatant lies to force their way in,” stressed PECO head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho. “They even claim that they can do what we do when they clearly cannot, and this is considering that they unsuccessfully tried to pirate our technical experts.”