By: Francis Allan L. Angelo and Emme Rose Santiagudo
MORE Electric and Power Corp (MORE Power) may have found a way to acquire the assets of rival distribution firm Panay Electric Co (PECO) in Iloilo City.
In a statement, MORE Power President and CEO Roel Castro said they are interested in joining the auction sale of PECO assets on Dec 12, 2019 (not Nov 12 as earlier reported).
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas earlier said the city government decided to proceed with the auction sale of PECO assets due to its failure to pay real property taxes to the city for two years.
“I was told that this real property tax has been pending for the past two years and well I think it’s about time that this has to be finally resolved,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Castro said MORE Power is willing to help the city raise funds via auction sale of assets owned by delinquent businesses.
“Yes, we are seriously considering to participate in the auction of the posts and meters on Dec 12. This way, we can help the City raise the needed funds since Peco has been so negligent for years in paying their obligation. So the reason why we are participating is because of the city. Kawawa naman ang City na for years hindi binabayaran. Kaya we will participate and pay more than the floor price so the city can use the funds already for their social services,” Castro said.
MORE Power has acquired the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City after PECO failed to renew its franchise which expired in January 2019.
But MORE Power’s takeover bid is snagged by legal cases in the local and appellate courts and even the Supreme Court.
With the purported P90 million in unpaid property taxes, the Business Permits and Licensing Office withheld the renewal of PECO’s business permit.
BPLO head Norman Tabud said PECO lacks a business permit since 2018 because of the RPT issue.
The RPT dues are levied or imposed on government properties on which PECO’s distribution poles are located.
“They were not issued a business permit renewal since 2018 because may dapat pa sila i-settle nga balayran sa city. Kay ang poste taxable sa duta nga ginabuksukan sang ila poste,” he said.
Last March 12, 2019, the BPLO issued a notice of violation against PECO following a memorandum from City Treasurer Jinny Hermano saying that permits will only be issued to businesses that already paid taxes.
In previous interviews, Tabud said PECO replied that it has been paying business licensing fees to the court.
According to the mayor, the city government gave PECO some time to make an offer but the offer was unacceptable.
“Consequently, due to the non-payment of taxes, the business permits of PECO have not been issued by the BPLO and when I came in I discovered about it. We gave PECO time because they told our lawyers that they are going to make an offer but the offer was not acceptable, so the city treasurer proceeded with the auction sale,” he added.
Aside from PECO, Treñas said other delinquent real property tax payers in the city will also be included in the auction sale.
The City Treasurer said the properties to be auctioned are 20,000 wooden and concrete poles, transformers, and electrical wires owned by PECO.
In a statement issued on Monday, PECO said it is currently in talks with BPLO regarding the issue
According to PECO, they have a pending case with the Local Board of Assessment Appeals since 2017 questioning PECO’s assessment of their real property tax in 2016.
“As such, the RPT assessment is not yet final and conclusive. In fact, we tried to make a payment but this was refused by the City Treasurer’s Office constraining us to consign the RPT in court. This means that we have paid an amount to the RTC which they now hold,” PECO said.
PECO believes that the once dead issue is being resurfaced as part of a continuous black propaganda lodged by rival firm MORE Power.
“The bigger question is why this issue is being resurfaced now. It seems very clear that this is part of a continued black propaganda being waged by our rival to taint our image and discredit our organization,” they added.