By: Emme Rose Santiagudo and Francis Allan L. Angelo
IN MORE or less two hours, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises struck down a bill seeking to grant Panay Electric Co. (PECO) the franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City on Sept 11, 2019.
Not one of the more than 20 committee members present, including Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne Baronda, objected to the motion of Surigao Rep. Johnny Pimentel to deny House Bill No. 4101.
The committee chaired by Rep. Franz Alvarez has 44 members, according to the House of Representatives’ official website.
Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano filed HB 4101 on Aug 22 in a bid to grant PECO a fresh franchise after losing it in January 2019.
PECO’s certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also expired in May 2019 but was allowed to operate in the meantime by virtue of the transition of Republic Act No. 11212 which granted rival firm MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) the franchise to distribute power in the city.
PECO challenged the validity of RA 11212 and even secured a ruling from the Regional Trial Court in Mandaluyong City declaring portions of the law as illegal and unconstitutional.
In a statement, Baronda said that granting PECO franchise application will create “more issues, court more litigations, and produce more problems.”
“We will never see the end of it. And that is against public interest. That is not for the benefit and welfare of the people of Iloilo City, which I represent.”
Baronda cited that the 17th Congress also addressed the issue when it approved MORE Power’s franchise via RA 11212.
“Utility franchises are for the benefit of the people. Hence, the outcome of this issue should lead to the benefit of the community residing in the City of Iloilo. The people, through their elected representatives in this House and in the Senate, have already spoken in the 17th Congress when they enacted into law RA 11212, awarding MORE’s franchise.”
The lady lawmaker said the Enrique Razon-led MORE Power deserves the chance to fulfil its commitments while applying for the franchise.
Rep. Pimentel emphasized that PECO was already remiss of its duties to Ilonggo consumers.
“I think we were given the opportunity in the past, more than 90 years to PECO to improve its services but unfortunately it has not done its obligations. It has been clear that they have been remiss in their duties and their primordial concern is for the progress of their stakeholders and not the welfare of their constituents,” he stressed.
According to Pimentel, the Congress should give the new franchisee, the chance to provide better services to the Ilonggos.
“I believe, Mr. Chairman that we should give the new franchisee the chance to give a better quality of life for the constituents of Iloilo. On this note, I move that we deny the application for the new grant of franchise of PECO in support of the actualization of the new franchise that we granted,” he concluded.
Staunch PECO critics and former city councilors Plaridel Nava and Joshua Alim, who were present in the hearing, claimed victory in the denial of the bill.
“Kami ya ni Joshua Alim who are the prime movers sini, ginakabig namon nga dako nga kadalag-an kag teh napasamalatan ang tanan nga nagbuylog sa amon,” Nava said.
Nava said PECO should accept the fact that they already lost the battle and they don’t have any opportunity to continue distributing power in Iloilo City.
“Wala na tsansa kay gin-turn down na sa committee level, indi na kalab-ot sa plenary, indi na siya maquestion sang court. They have to accept the fact nga wala na sila sang opportunity nga magpadayon sa power distribution sa siyudad,” he stressed.
Instead, Nava said PECO should focus now on negotiating with MORE Power for a smooth transition.