MORE LACKS CPCN: Illegal for firm to collect payments – PECO

PECO legal counsel Estrella Elamparo (left) with PECO head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho. (Photo courtesy of Leo Solinap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE) has no Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulations Commission (ERC), hindering it from running power distribution services in Iloilo City despite being granted a legislative franchise.

MORE’s franchise, through Republic Act 11212, expressly subjects it to the provisions of the Public Service Act.

Section 3 of the said act specifies that the franchise grantee (MORE) “shall secure from the ERC or any other government agency which has jurisdiction over the operation of the herein grantee, the necessary certificate of public convenience and necessity and other appropriate permits and licenses for the construction and operation of its electric distribution system.”

With the exception of warehouses, airships, government-owned public services, bancas, animal-drawn vehicles, radio companies, no public service shall operate in the Philippines without possessing a valid and subsisting CPCN.

With the absence of a CPCN, anything that MORE does in relation to the functions of electric distribution under the “general business purpose,” may not be done without a CPCN.

In other words, without the CPCN, MORE is under a blanket prohibition from engaging in any public service business.

“The lack of a CPCN also prevents MORE from collecting payments from subscribers, which the company has been announcing in the last few days,” PECO legal counsel Estrella Elamparo stressed.

In a letter to PECO subscribers, MORE announced that payments for the subscribers’ next cut-off should already be made to MORE, whether directly or through its duly authorized payment centers.

But the lack of a CPCN makes this act of collecting payments from PECO subscribers illegal, the Cacho-led firm said.

One other exception to the CPCN requirement would be if the franchise itself expressly states that the grantee is exempt from securing the CPCN from ERC.

“MORE’s franchise itself, however, requires it to procure a CPCN from the ERC, contrary to MORE’s announcement that their franchise does not require a CPCN prior to the exercise of eminent domain,” Elamparo said.

“This only means that practically everything that MORE has been doing—from the hostile takeover to their announcement of already having full control of power distribution services, and even their directive to PECO subscribers to pay their next bill to MORE—are all illegal because of several legal hindrances,” Elamparo stressed.

“It will be an act of stealing amounts that are due to PECO.”

She added, “We will take all the necessary legal steps to ensure that this travesty of justice is corrected and the perpetrators be made accountable under the law.”