Solon laments ‘advantage’ extended to mining firm

October 30, 2018

A PARTY-LIST congressman yesterday lamented the apparent undue advantage extended by the House of Representatives to a mining firm, which is supposed to take over the power distribution of a local cooperative in Iloilo City, by granting recently its legislative franchise application without even consulting the consumers.

Coop-Natcco party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo decried that stakeholders from end users being served by the Panay Electric Company (PECO) for 95 long years have not been apprised of what awaits them when newbie MORE Energy and Power Corporation (MEPC) succeeds in taking over.

“The people of Iloilo City must be made aware of their energy situation. It is unclear if all the stakeholders have been really consulted. Will the people of Iloilo also simply accept a new competitor?” He asked, noting Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas’ “absence” in the undertakings.

With only four negative votes, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of MMC last October 8. The measure is now undergoing another round of congressional deliberations in the Senate for its concurring approval before the legislative franchise can fully take effect when Peco’s franchise expires on Jan. 2019.

Sens. Win Gatchalian and Chiz Escudero voiced out their concerns regarding the legislative franchise request of MEPC during the hearing of the Senate Public Services committee recently.

The two senators pointed out that the company allegedly has no assets or distribution lines in Iloilo City as it purportedly plans to takeover the assets of current franchisee PECO through expropriation.

Aasenso party-list Rep. Teodoro Montoro also raised concern more about the future transition to MMC as Iloilo’s electricity distributor, considering that MMC is a “mining company that does not have the experience in electricity distribution.”

“To me, if the current franchise holders had shortcomings, then there should be an option to correct it. We just need to ask them whether they still want to keep the franchise or not,” he said, expressing fears of unreasonable power rate increases in the Panay region. “It might cause power interruptions in Iloilo and Congress might take the blame for that.”

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has refuted the claim of a mining company that it had ordered the current local power distributor in Iloilo City to refund its customers of P631 million in alleged overbillings.

“The information did not come from the ERC, and that Panay Electric Company was not castigated on the aforecited matter,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said in an official statement, belying claims by its rival MEPC.

The clarification from ERC in effect affirms PECO’s official stand that the latter was not sanctioned for any irregularity, and that it had been fully compliant with all legal orders from ERC.

PECO corporate affairs manager Mikel Afzelius said the newspapers that published the defamatory article - dubbed as fake news – should “rectify” such “in the spirit of credible, reliable, and responsible journalism.”

“The reports in question were suspiciously published and disseminated during the height of the Congressional committee deliberations,” he said, in which it eventually approved the franchise application of MEPC over PECO, which has provided power to Iloilo for 95 years. “We can only hope the people of Iloilo City are taking note of how those who purportedly desire to serve Ilonggos are exposed for who they really are: masters in employing deceit and misinformation to further their business interests,” Afzelius added.