By Herbert Vego
‘CONSUMER-CENTRIC’ is how his subordinates call Roel Z. Castro, president of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power). How could we electricity users disagree? He has been going the extra mile to prioritize “service first, profit secondary.”
In fact, during an interview with the company’s legal officer, Atty. Alyana Babayen-on, she expressed support for collaboration with what is emerging to be their competitor, the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO). But that is going ahead of the story.
First, let us remember that a new law, Republic Act No. 11918, has flashed the green light for MORE Power to expand its power-distribution franchise from Iloilo City to Passi City and the 15 towns of the province, namely Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Zarraga, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Duenas, Dumangas, and San Enrique.
In effect, the law places MORE Power in the line of competition with ILECO because the enumerated places are still being energized by any of the three ILECO branches.
So far, however, the ILECO managers have made no comment on the matter.
On the part of MORE Power, Babayen-on clarified that the law would not end up in expropriation of ILECO. On the contrary, it could pave the way for a healthy competition, since steps are being done to facilitate collaborative efforts. They would have to find ways.
“If possible,” she said, “we would explore the possibility of renting ILECO’s poles in order to reach faster the provincial residents applying for MORE connections.”
Otherwise, it would take years to complete MORE Power’s expansion to the entire coverage areas.
Indeed, why not pole-sharing when it would be mutually beneficial? Income from that scheme would augment ILECO’s income and allow it to improve its services and lower distribution cost, which was so high that it provoked power consumers to lobby Congress for the entry of MORE Power through an expanded franchise.
There had been suggestions for “joint venture” but that would depend on the correct interpretation of the provisions of the law.
The lady lawyer, who has yet to see a copy of the law, would want to study it thoroughly first. The only gist of RA 11918 as published in the news stories is that MORE Power “shall not sell, lease, transfer, grant the usufruct of, nor assign this franchise or the rights and privileges acquired thereunder to any person, firm, company, corporation or other commercial or legal entity, nor merge with any other corporation or entity, nor shall transfer the controlling interest of the grantee – whether as a whole or in part.”
Babayen-on would not discount the possibility of ILECO questioning before a court of law the legitimacy of RA 11918.
Methinks that’s now unlikely. I remember that during the deliberation on the bill (House Bill 10271) at the House of Representatives, ILECO had vehemently questioned its constitutionality but to no avail.
Thus, in anticipation of the implementation of its expanded franchise 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation, MORE Power has already installed facilities at the Iloilo City-Pavia boundary. Because of its proximity to the city, Pavia would be the first beneficiary of MORE Power’s expansion.
In the event ILECO interposes no objection, we would also greet them, “More power to you.”
LENDING AN EAR TO PPP OBJECTION
THIS writer has heard friends oppose the lease agreement inked by the Iloilo City government and SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI), which would authorize the latter to fund and rebuild two public markets — the Central and the Super – on a public-private-partnership (PPP) scheme.
The 25-year lease agreement (with option of another 25 years) authorizes the SMPHI to restore or reconstruct the said markets at an estimated cost of P3 billion or higher in order to comply with the pre-agreed design.
The main ground for some merchants’ objection is their possible displacement in the event they lose the stalls they occupy. What if they would be imposed “unaffordable” of space rental?
If I understand Mayor Jerry Treñas correctly, the ground floor of the rehabilitated markets would remain occupied by the existing tenants at present cost, payable to the city’s Local Economic Enterprise Office (LEEO).
The upper floors for rent to well-off businessmen would be under SM City management.
This should allay the fear of small stall occupants that they would be compelled to enter into a “onerous” agreement with SMPHI, which could destabilize their trade.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Iloilo Chapter has openly expressed support for the PPP deal, since it would not cost the city a single centavo. Moreover, it would elevate the markets to “mall stature” — “clean, attractive, comfortable, safe and well-organized.”
We were told that parking would no longer be a problem; parking spaces would be provided. Oh well, since the doubting Thomases deserve to be appeased, City Hall should first of all declassify all terms and conditions governing the PPP. Don’t you agree, Doc Bong?