‘MERE GIMMICKRY’: Razon-led firm derides PECO’s P1-billion investment plan

MORE Power President and CEO Roel Castro

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

More Electric and Power Corp. (MEPC), Iloilo City’s new power distributor, “welcomed with derision” the plan of beleaguered Panay Electric Co. (PECO) to invest P1.1 billion.

In a statement, MEPC said PECO’s statement is “nothing more than a publicity and legal gimmickry.”

MEPC president Roel Castro commended “PECO its legal advisers and PR strategist for making that statement to spend P1.1 billion.”

“This is the amount, more or less, they owe the consumers. What the consumers in Iloilo are paying since years ago already includes that P1.1 billion which they did not invest in the past. So tama lang they will pump it in because utang nila yan sa consumers. In fact, they have to spend that in 10 weeks, not 10 years,” Castro said.

Castro pointed out that even the Court of Appeals, in its ruling denying PECO’s bid to stop the expropriation proceedings, had recognized that MEPC is “now Iloilo’s sole distribution utility charged with ensuring and maintaining stable electricity supply for the city’s 65,000 households and businesses.”

He also pointed out that PECO’s announcement would have been appreciated better by Iloilo consumers and the two chambers of Congress had it invested the money 10 years ago.

Castro described PECO’s announcement “as a public relations stunt in a desperate bid to undo Congress’ decision to grant the electricity distribution franchise to another company because of numerous complaints by thousands of Iloilo consumers and its failure to modernize its facilities despite its stockholders led by the Cacho clan for the past 95 years and the Lopez-owned First Philippines Holdings Corp. declaring hundreds of millions of pesos in dividends every year.”

“If PECO spent that amount 10 years ago, the Iloilo City Council would not have passed a resolution asking Congress to find a new distribution utility to manage the city’s electricity distribution system and the Senate and the House of Representatives would have renewed its franchise that expired this year. Instead Congress granted the franchise to MORE and President Rodrigo Duterte signed it into law.”

He also noted that PECO’s media announcement was curiously held in Taguig City instead in Iloilo City where its former customers should be hearing it.

MEPC had pledged to spend close to P1.7 billion in the next three years to modernize the electricity distribution facilities in Iloilo City after securing its franchise from Congress in December 2018.

It is seeking to expropriate all ageing distribution network of PECO in Iloilo after President Duterte signed its franchise into law via Republic Act No. 11212.

RA 11212 authorized MORE to take over all and any facility and property it needs to ensure Iloilo City and nearby municipalities have continuous and assured supply of electricity.

But PECO went to courts outside Iloilo to stop the enforcement of RA 11212 on grounds that the act was unconstitutional and deprived the Cacho-led firm of its economic rights.

MEPC had secured an expropriation order from the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court in line with the provisions of RA 11212 and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA, Castro said.