THE workers and rank-and-file employees of Iloilo power distributor, Panay Electric Company (PECO), have added their voice to assailing the alleged “rush job” taken by Congress in having its role taken over by a mining company.
Valentino Diestro, president of the 450-strong PECO Workers and Employees Union, said they strongly opposed the franchise bill granting More Minerals Corp. (MMC), recently renamed, More Electric and Power Corp., the right to take over the operation of PECO, lock stock and barrel.
PECO has been the power distributor for Iloilo City and nearby areas for the last 95 years. It submitted its application for franchise renewal as its current franchise is to expire by January 2019.
However, the workers claimed lawmakers “substituted” instead the franchise application of More that was filed only last July under House Bill 8132.
Despite “strong opposition,” the House Committee on Legislative Franchise chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez allegedly “railroaded” the proceeding and went on to recommend the “ouster” of PECO thru Committee Report 878.
The group averred the committee “ignored” some “glaring facts” in More’s application, some of which include:
More failed to show that it owned and possessed the necessary capital and technical expertise to operate as an electric power distributor; More’s Certificate of Incorporation and Amended Articles of Incorporation as of 2016 show that the firm is engaged in mining activities and never in power distribution; MMC’s Latest General Information Sheet (GIS), and the firm’s paid-up capital was only P2.5 million as of the date of filing of its application for a new franchise under HB 8132.
He noted that between the filing of the bill and its approval, it only took the Alvarez committee and its counterpart at the Senate headed by Sen. Grace Poe, less than 3 months to act in favor of More, with Poe’s committee taking less than 2 weeks to make a decision after receiving the House committee report last month.
“We were never consulted,” Diestro stressed.
He also lamented that the bill was approved even without the benefit of a business plan on how to efficiently operate the distribution of electricity to households and other requirements set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
Also glossed over, he claimed, was the recommendations from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
“Lubos po kaming nababahala dito dahil dito po nakasalalay ang kinabukasan naming manggagawa sa PECO,” he pointed out.
The union leader also lamented that every decision regarding their future lies in Manila which will not even be affected should a power crisis hit them as a result of the Congress-approved take-over.
“Lahat ng nagdedesisyon, nandoon sa Manila na hindi naman maaapektuhan ng krisis na darating dito sa Iloilo City,” he added.
He also called on his fellow workers and the other affected sectors to “repudiate” the approval of More’s franchise as they call on both chambers of Congress to conduct another series of public hearings “that follows due process.”