By Herbert Vego
THERE is a need to keep Iloilo City defiant against the ironic trend of fire accidents occurring in March, commemorated as the “Fire Prevention Month”.
As far as MORE Energy and Power Corp. is concerned, “We are doing our best.”
That was how Engr. Bailey del Castillo, the distribution utility’s vice-president for network development and operations, described the personnel’s zealousness in their fire safety and prevention program.
So far, so good. No fire has been recorded in Iloilo City in the first week of March.
Del Castillo was one of the three MORE Power executives we interviewed on the program “Tribuna sang Banwa” on Aksyon Radyo last Sunday (12:15 to 1;15 P.M.), with co-hosts Neri Camiña and Nermie Camiña. Our other guests were Maricon Garrido, manager for customer care; and Arvin Celis, manager of the system’s loss reduction program.
“We collaborate with the Bureau of Fire Prevention and the city’s Office of the Building Official,” Del Castillo said. “We have organized a hazard-mapping team which routinely conducts joint inspection of power lines from pole to pole, all the way to home interiors. It would take us no more than six months to finish the job aimed at achieving a zero electrical-related fire.”
Fire safety is on top of the five-year modernization agenda visualized by MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro. By 2025, the company would have achieved its goal of becoming a world-class power distributor.
From its original number of five substations, the company has acquired two more, plus two mobile ones, ensuring sufficient flow of electricity in the seven districts from Iloilo City Proper to La Paz, Jaro, Molo, Mandurriao, Arevalo and Lapuz.
“Obvious” by their disappearance are most of the high-voltage “spaghetti” wirings that have already been replaced and aligned, including insulated ones in places prone to contacts with trees and flying or wind-blown objects.
In collaboration with the Iloilo City Government and the telecommunication companies, MORE Power is leading an ambitious project aimed at “undergrounding” the cables, initially along J.M. Basa St. from Plaza Libertad to corner Guanco.
The rapid growth of the company mirrors the rapid rise of its customer base from 62,000 in 2020 to around 90,000 households and establishments today. We asked Ms. Garrido for an explanation behind such a phenomenon.
“We do it the MORE Konek way,” she said. “We have a continuous information and education campaign aimed at winning over new customers. We let them realize that without legally-connected power, they expose themselves to fire hazards. They could also be sued for power pilferage.”
Power pilferage or violation of Republic Act No. 7832 is punishable by the penalty of reclusion temporal or a fine ranging from fifty thousand pesos (P50,000) to one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) or both at the discretion of the court.
As manager of MORE Power’s system’s loss reduction program, Engr. Arvin Celis revealed that his office has noted the eagerness of power thieves to apply for legal connection, not only because they fear getting apprehended and jailed. It’s also because they have learned a lesson from previous fires “electrical in nature,” to quote a BFP official in the wake of the January 28, 2023 fire that burned down 300 houses in barangays West Habog-Habog and San Juan. More than half of them had not legally connected.
“Even the act of tapping a neighbor’s legal connection,” Celis said, “could cause overloading, heating up wires and causing fire.”
This should be an “incentive in disguise” for power thieves to apply for their own electricity meters.
As a Filipino saying goes, “Sa paghahangad ng kagitna, isang salop ang nawala.”