ILECOs still studying options vs. MORE Power expansion

DG file

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

One of the Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (ILECO) on Friday said their legal department is still studying their response to Republic Act No. 11918, which expanded the franchise area of MORE Electric and Power Corp (MORE Power) into parts of their coverage area.

Ileco II General Manager Engr. Jose Redmond Roquios told Daily Guardian on Air that their lawyers are still studying their next move.

This is in the context of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vetoing another bill which would have expanded the franchise of the Davao Light and Power Company into areas covered by another electric cooperative in Davao Region.

While the president cited the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in vetoing that bill, he left MORE Power’s expansion bill untouched, until it lapsed into R.A. No. 11918 on July 30, 2022.

MORE Power’s expansion bill was transmitted to Malacañang on June 29, a day before former President Rodrigo Duterte’s term expired, leaving the bill’s fate almost in limbo into the next administration.

Roquios said they had hoped that on the heels of the Davao Light veto, Marcos Jr. could have made a similar decision on MORE Power’s bill.

He added that should they pursue action against the law’s constitutionality, they would cite the president’s veto on Davao Light and its basis on the EPIRA.

“We had hoped that [Marcos Jr.] also vetoed [Rep. Act No. 11918] for the same reason [as Davao Light] because ILECO is still servicing those areas,” Roquios said.

“We would definitely cite the violation of the EPIRA, because it is indicated there that we would be allowed to finish our franchises first, and that there should be only one distribution utility due to economic reasons, avoiding the duplication of power costs,” he added.

Roquios also said that allowing the operation of two distribution utilities in an area would mean overlapping of their lines, which would ultimately pose safety risks to consumers and communities.

“If we talk about safety, we also fail sometimes on coordination, much more when there are two distribution utilities. We would cross lines with them when we install and they will cross their lines with ours too, and we may not be able to allow each other because it will affect service. Even when telephone lines cross with that of ILECO’s, it already gets dangerous,” he said.

ILECO II serves the municipalities of Pototan, Mina, Calinog, Bingawan, Lambunao, Janiuay, Badiangan, Dueñas, Dingle, San Enrique, Zarraga, New Lucena, Barotac Nuevo, Dumangas and the component Passi City, which have now been included in MORE Power’s franchise area.

ILECO II’s franchise is set to expire in 2029, while ILECO I’s is in 2053, and ILECO III in 2038, according to Roquios.

All three electric cooperatives had actively opposed the law during deliberations in the House of Representatives and the Senate, together with party-list groups representing the power sector.