‘Great sustainability’ not an empty slogan

By Herbert Vego

“WITH MORE Power comes great sustainability.”

It might have germinated as a parody of a movie slogan. But it makes more sense as far as MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) is concerned.

“If I could further cut the price of electricity,” said company president Roel Z. Castro, “I would do it. But it could only be done with the cooperation of customers.”

The quoted words might not exactly translate what the interviewee had told us in mixed Filipino and Ilonggo on the radio program “Tribuna sang Banwa” (Sunday on Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.), but certainly we caught the essence of his message.

MORE Power – the power-distribution utility in Iloilo City — charges its residential customers only ₱6.40 per kilowatt-hour, which is the lowest in the country.

As president of MORE Power, Mr. Castro has always believed in keeping “service first, profit secondary.” He believes he needs to be in good terms with customers who constitute the lifeblood of any business.

No doubt, that policy has maximized the number of its customers from 62,000 in February 2020 to 86,000 today

“Around 23,000 of them,” Castro said “used to be power pilferers who could not legally connect because they could not comply with all the requirements.  But when we took over, we reduced these requirements from 14 to only three or four.”

As every Ilonggo knows, MORE Power replaced Panay Electric Co. (PECO) as power distributor in the city on February 28, 2020 in compliance with a specific franchise law, Republic Act 11212.

The good news is that, since most pilferers have legalized, system’s loss has gone down from 30 percent to nine percent. Lesser system’s loss means lesser amount of bills to pay.

That, of course, is a good incentive for paying customers to report pilferers among neighbors.

Incidentally, system’s loss is the cost of energy lost from pilferage and from transmission of energy from source to destination.

Castro admitted, however, that he feels frustrated because, despite the lowered bills and lenient requirements, there are still people who steal electricity using “jumpers,” not only once but twice. They end up criminally charged in court.

“We have sought the cooperation of barangay leaders in running after pilferers,” Castro lamented, “but some of them refuse to cooperate to the extent of refusing to pay for energy consumed by barangay facilities.”

In fairness, I told Castro about the example set by Peter “Kap Mawa” Abadiano, barangay captain of Zamora-Melliza who personally monitors the homes of his constituents, warning them of fires that could arise from using “jumpers” that overload power lines.

Oo nga naman.  Ought not the service provider and service receivers constitute a “happy we”?  Cooperation with each other means safety for customers and fairness for the service provider.

Talking of safety, Castro said that the company had been replacing some “naked” or uninsulated wires with “tree wires”.  The insulated tree wires now located along tree-lined areas make it unnecessary for linemen to cut trees that could otherwise cause short circuit and trigger fires.

The replacement of old transformers and poles with new, heavy-duty ones are likewise aimed at the ultimate goal of preventing power outages.

Further on corporate social responsibility, Castro talked about MORE Power’s programs which are aimed at fighting environmental degradation in cooperation with the Office of the City Agriculturist under our good friend Inigo Garingalao. They include tree planting, mangrove planting, and growing fingerlings along the Iloilo River.

As already reported, Castro led his staff in releasing 730 fingerlings thereat last Feb. 28 to symbolize MORE Power’s 730 days or two years of service.

“We have partnered with the Iloilo Farmers’ Federation,” he revealed, “to propagate urban gardening using organic materials in 27 barangays.”

If I may guess, urban gardening would enable the urban poor to make more money than enough to pay for their energy bills.