Consumers and residents of Iloilo City appealed to the Supreme Court as final arbiter on the legal issue between the two distribution utilities, franchise holder More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power) and former distributor Panay Electric Co. (PECO).
Ilonggo consumers and residents led by the city’s biggest transport cooperative urged the High Court to take into consideration the plight of the 65,000 power consumers in the city who will be directly impacted by the decision of the court.
More Power holds the legislative franchise to operate the electricity distribution system of Iloilo City. It was also granted a business permit by the Iloilo City government and Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) but PECO continues to question the takeover of its business operations saying it was unconstitutional.
According to Halley Alcarde, General Manager of Western Visayas Transport Cooperative (WVTC), MORE Power has proven itself capable to manage the distribution system of Iloilo City even if it has only been in operation for six months.
Alcarde said consumers were able to experience better, more reliable and efficient services from More Power in the past six months compared to PECO’s operations which has lasted for several decades.
“We know that in terms of legal issues, the magistrates look at the rule of law but we hope they can also consider the appeal of the consumer and prioritize it and really look at the situation in Iloilo City and the huge difference in power supply in Iloilo. We were relieved when our electricity problems were resolved and hopefully this is what the SC will really look into,” explained Alcarde.
Alcarde said MORE Power’s social media accounts would show the real sentiment of the public, especially how satisfied the consumers are with the services of the new distributor.
“There will be brownouts in Iloilo City but these are scheduled power interruptions and the public is given advisory when it will be resolved unlike the previous distributor where consumers are not informed how long the brownouts will be or how soon power will be resolved. We have seen that More Power is able to address the problems unlike PECO where no action is taken,” added Alcarde, who himself experienced the immediate action of More Power personnel on his complaint.
Meanwhile, Francis Gentoral, Executive Director of the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (IEDF) said MORE Power has a strong sense of accountability and transparency by providing the right service to consumers even though they are still in the transition phase.
Gentoral said IEDF, which has been actively wooing investors to Iloilo City, said they have noted a marked improvement in the status of power supply under More Power.
Gentoral said investors are now optimistic about Iloilo City unlike during the time of PECO when some investors decided not to pursue their investments due to unreliable power supply.
MORE Power president Roel Castro earlier said it will take three years to modernize Iloilo City’s distribution system and the company committed capital expenditure of P1.8 billion.
Castro said the company has already started with its modernization program by fixing the dilapidated systems of PECO.
MORE Power continued with its system upgrades even during the COVID pandemic and has since upgraded 100 distribution transformers, replaced 100 electric poles and fixed 97 hotspot connectors, replaced switchboards at transformers in all 5 substations and replaced electric meters of around 15,000 residents.
Based on the technical study conducted by Miescor Enginering Services Corp., PECO manually operated most of its facilities which were competed during the 1960s and are outdated and could cause fires. These outdated facilities caused the capacity load of power substations to go up to 90 percent when it should have be at 70 percent only.
Aside from the consumer groups, several multisectoral groups also expressed support to MORE Power, including those from the religious, teachers and the transport sectors.
“From visibility, transparency, rapid response, courteous personnel, to leading a transformational impact in the campaign to rid Iloilo City of power thefts, the new utility distributor is creating change,” said Pastor Nestor Gonzales.