More ‘lies’

March 08, 2020
Panay Electric Company

ERC misled on PECO’s CPCN.

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)’s announcement that it would revoke Panay Electric Company (PECO)’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) was predicated on false claims made by More Electric and Power Company (MORE), according to PECO.

ERC Chair and Chief Executive Officer Agnes Devanadera sent a letter to both PECO and MORE stating that the ERC would revoke PECO’s CPCN after determining that MORE has “established or acquired its own distribution system.”

“The revocation of our CPCN is not yet final as we have not received any official directive from the ERC,” revealed PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho. “The announcement was premised on misrepresentations made by MORE, so we are currently apprising the ERC of the true situation on the ground.”

“MORE has no right to provide power distribution services in Iloilo because it has no Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). Moreover, MORE does not have the necessary expertise to efficiently operate our facilities and serve the people of Iloilo,” he added.

MORE forcibly took over five of PECO’s substations last week, claiming that it is allowed to do so through the strength of a writ of possession issued by Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 23’s Judge Emerald Contreras last February 28.

However, Judge Contreras declared in an addendum that “the operation should still be handled by PECO personnel who have the technical expertise,” and that MORE personnel are only meant to observe at the moment. In a hearing on March 6, Judge Contreras ordered MORE to return operations of the power distribution facilities to PECO.

“We are currently waiting for Judge Contreras to issue the order to the sheriff, so we can stabilize the power situation,” said Cacho. “In the meantime, MORE continues to blatantly defy the Court by doing meter replacement activities based on photos gathered after the hearing,” he added.

“We hope that MORE employees realize the gravity of their actions when they intentionally disobeyed the order of the court for replacing PECO’s electric meters. These are very serious offenses and we are set to file contempt charges against them,” Cacho stressed.

Meanwhile, a series of advertisements from MORE was released after the takeover indicating that the company was in full control of the power distribution facilities, and the company also released a letter to PECO subscribers that payments for the next cycle must be made to MORE instead.

Atty. Estrella Elamparo, PECO legal counsel, however, denounced MORE’s attempt, to collect payments from consumers because it still lacks a CPCN that would allow it to conduct business.

“MORE Power’s franchise itself, however, requires it to procure a CPCN from the ERC, contrary to its announcement that their franchise does not require a CPCN prior to the exercise of eminent domain,” she stressed.

In a subsequent order issued on March 2, Contreras ordered MORE to take down “all ads pertaining to its full operation” and has said that she will verify the statuses of both companies’ CPCNs herself with the ERC.

Despite successive court rulings, MORE insists that it is the one purchasing power to be distributed to consumers claiming, among others, that they purchase power from WESM. Sources from WESM and PECM, however, confirmed that, to date, it is only PECO that secures electricity from the spot market as it is the only entity registered with WESM. Therefore, what MORE intends to bill the consumers is electricity purchased by PECO.

MORE also maintains that it has never agreed to PECO’s continued operation of the power distribution facilities, but one of MORE’s own employees revealed that PECO, MORE, and the Court Sheriffs had initially come to a verbal agreement that only one person from MORE would be allowed in each substation.

“The decision of the Iloilo RTC to direct MORE to give back power distribution operations to PECO is a crucial development because it proves that everything that we have been saying in the past few weeks is true,” Elamparo stressed.

The case regarding the constitutionality of the expropriation is still pending in the Supreme Court.