By Francis Allan L. Angelo
Some consumers in Pavia, Iloilo, an emerging growth area in the province, continue to cross their fingers that a new power distributor will serve their town to bring down electricity rates and offer better customer services.
Helen Gomer of Pavia said they envy Iloilo City consumers who enjoy way cheaper electricity and 24-hour customer service of MORE Electric and Power Corp.
Electricity rates in Iloilo City is a little over P6 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the lowest since MORE Power assumed power distribution services two years ago.
Customer service also improved via both traditional and online media while more accounts were added to MORE Power’s billings – from around 60,000 to over 80,000 in just two years – as application for new lines were made easier and accessible to the public.
“I am envious because Iloilo City has way cheaper electricity compared to ours which is around P11 per kWh. We also saw how fast MORE Power responds to troubles and how they made life easier for consumers,” Helen said in Hiligaynon.
Pavia is under the franchise area of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) I.
Helen said their barangay and other consumer have been prodding their local officials to open their town to another or even more distribution utilities (DU) so they will have an option apart from ILECO I.
The sentiments of Pavia residents and officials is what triggered the filing of a bill that sought to amend Republic Act 11212 (which gave MORE Power the franchise to operate in Iloilo City) and allow the DU to serve in the second and fourth districts of Iloilo.
The bill has been recommended by the Senate Committee on Public Services for approval of the plenary, and is pending on Second Reading, according to the Senate’s website.
The three ILECOs in Iloilo province have opposed the measure saying it will affect their operations and burden their consumers.
But according to Pavia Sangguniang Bayan Member Jose Maria “Pyt” Trimañez, the situations of the ILECOs and the previous DU in Iloilo City are different.
Trimañez said that unlike Iloilo City, MORE Power will not take over ILECO I’s facilities as the Enrique Razon-led firm will put up its own lines and other facilities and will deploy its own personnel if it is allowed to expand to Iloilo province.
“ILECO should not be bothered as no worker will be displaced and they will keep their facilities. MORE Power will put up its own,” Trimañez said.
He also clarified that they will welcome other DUs who want to serve Pavia but as of now, only MORE Power is interested and available.
Trimañez, committee on transportation, information and franchising chair, authored a resolution in 2021 asking second district Rep. Michael Gorriceta to explore the possibility of opening their district’s franchise to another player like MORE Power.
Among the reasons he cited for the resolution is the call of Pavia residents “to explore the possibility of another power distribution utility like More Electric and Power Corp. that can offer a lower kilowatt rate and provide efficient customer service to the Pavianhons.”
Trimañez said the initial concern of Pavia residents was the kind of service ILECO I offered, particularly in troubleshooting.
“I am even forced to go to their sub-office in Sta. Barbara just to refer and follow up calls for assistance when there are troubles in their lines,” he added.
The tipping point was the news that MORE Power managed to cut power rates by half in middle of 2021.
“At first, it was just the issue of customer services and frequent brownouts. But when consumers learned of lower rates from MORE Power, that led the snowballing of calls to allow other players in our area,” he said.
Trimañez said it’s up to Congress to appreciate and act on expansion bill of MORE Power even as they welcome other players who want to offer their services.
“We are very excited now with these developments and may the best firm win.”
Since Pavia is now booming in terms of local economy, Trimañez said cheaper power rates means more investments which will redound to more revenues and social services for Pavia residents.
The looming expansion of MORE Power in Pavia and other towns might also prompt ILECO I to improve its services, “and if that is the case, Pavia residents will not readily shift to MORE Power,” he added.