By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
The House of Representatives will look into the complaints against Panay Electric Company (PECO), particularly pole fire incidents in Iloilo City.
In a statement, Iloilo City lone district Rep Julienne Baronda confirmed the House probe saying that the Department of Energy (DOE) and PECO have a lot of explaining to do.
Baronda said complaints against PECO are “no longer a simple matter” and “congressional inquiry is imperative in the light of nine confirmed cases of PECO poles and power line fire incidents” between October 19 and 21.
The lady solon also expressed concern on the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Iloilo City report to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) regarding fire incidents.
BFP-Iloilo records submitted to the ERC showed that from Jan. 1, 2014 to Oct. 29, 2019, a total of 2,887 fire incidents occurred in Iloilo City, with pole fires numbering 1,464 cases, or 51.187 percent of all fire incidents during the almost six-year period.
Also, 224 cases of pole fires occurred out of the 427 fire incidents in 2014, while 228 cases of pole fires happened in 2015, 303 cases in 2016, 275 incidents in 2017 and another 233 pole fires in 2018.
A total of 201 pole fires erupted in the city from January to October 27, 2019.
Baronda said she awaits DOE’s reply to her letter seeking explanation on the pole fires.
“DOE and PECO owe the public an explanation. Should the explanations of these agencies turn out to be wanting, we will exercise the congressional oversight power of the House Committee on Energy,” she added.
Baronda also appealed for support from ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera.
“Priority is on how safety of the general public can be ensured in the midst of these disturbing PECO pole fires. The incidents have caused massive power loss throughout the city. Worse, PECO fires also put locals in danger.”
Baronda also cited how the City Government has been in the forefront of addressing the problems caused by PECO’s service.
“As such it is just but right that ERC and DOE do the same in addressing the complaints of the public.”
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas has asked Malacañang and the ERC to look into the pole fire cases.
The Mayor’s plea prompted the creation of an ERC Technical Team tasked to probe the pole fires. The results have yet to be released.
CITY REFUSES PECO OFFER
Meanwhile, the Iloilo City Treasurer’s Office has rejected PECO’s offer to settle its P97-million real property tax (RPT) arrears in two tranches in two years provided the city waives all penalties and fees.
Iloilo City Treasurer Jinny Hermano said the city will lose P38 million if he recommends PECO’s offer to Mayor Treñas. The amount represents penalties imposed on PECO when it refused to pay the RPT since 2006.
Hermano said the Dec 12, 2019 auction of PECO’s properties, especially its 30,000 distribution poles and the land where they stand on, will proceed as approved by Treñas.
Hermano said PECO can only stop the auction if it pays the P106.8 million floor price set by the city government.
The 106.8-million floor price includes the P97 million RPT arrears, the documentary stamp tax, and the registration fees, he added.
PECO’s tax liability arose from its refusal to pay RPT as assessed by the City Treasurer’s Office on the land where its distribution poles stand. These small pieces of land along the streets of Iloilo City will be the subject of the December 12 auction.
“Due to the non-payment of taxes, the business permits of PECO have not been issued by the BPLO (Business Permits and Licensing Office) and when I came in (as City Mayor) I discovered (the details) about it. We gave PECO time because they told our lawyers that they are going to make an offer but the offer was not acceptable, so the City Treasurer proceeded with the (option of) auction sale,” Mayor Treñas said when he announced the auction.
Hermano said the City Government would set the floor price at exactly P106,881,685.33.
The total market value of the posts and the land where they stand on is estimated at P214.9 million, according to CTO Tax Enforcement Division chief John Ladrillo.
Ladrillo said the P106.8-million floor price was computed based on PECO’s total tax liability since 2006 amounting to P97,164,438.81, the cost of the sale including documentary stamp tax estimated at P9,716,443.88 and the registration fee of P802.64.
He said the December 12 auction of PECO assets is open to everyone.