‘FAST BUT JUST RESOLUTION’: Bizmen seek fair ending to power firms’ row

A DUMP truck unloads filling soil in an ongoing development project on Diversion Road in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. Some businessmen in the city are calling for fast but just resolution to the legal dispute between Panay Electric Co. and MORE Electric and Power Corp. to sustain development efforts. (F. A. Angelo)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

CONSUMERS in Iloilo City are banking on the judiciary to resolve the tug-of-war between Panay Electric Co. (PECO) and MORE Electric and Power Co. (MORE) over the power distribution services in the city.

So far, the expropriation case filed by MORE in March 2019 has been raffled to two Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches, specifically the salas of Presiding Judges Marie Yvette Go and Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular.

The latest major development happened on Aug 14, 2019 when Judge Go granted MORE’s application for a writ of possession in relation to the expropriation case.

The expropriation case filed on March 11, 2019 is pursuant to its exercise of the power of eminent domain contained in the Republic Act No. 11212, the law that authorizes MORE Power the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

Last Aug 29, MORE informed the court that it was ready to act as the new franchise holder and already has the expertise and the manpower for the smooth transition in coordination with the Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy.

The Razon-led power firm also reiterated that PECO has no more congressional franchise which expired in January 2019.

As the court battle rages on, several prominent businessmen told Daily Guardian that they are now uncertain with major business decisions because of the tug-of-war.

One retail businessman who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity said they are hesitant to expand their investments because they don’t know who to approach for their power supply needs.

“Is it MORE Power or PECO? While we cannot pressure the court, with all due respect to the judge, we in the business community are dependent on the resolution of the case for our future ventures,” the businessman said.

Another businessman engaged in property development said they are confused because “PECO has no more franchise, and the franchise is now with MORE Electric although MORE is not yet in possession of the distribution facilities.”

The businessman said the granting of the writ of possession to MORE made them reluctant to deal with PECO.

Some consumers in Iloilo City also noted the purported “deterioration” of power distribution services in the city like the series of brownouts in Jaro district amid the foul weather.

They also pointed out exploding transformers in Jaro which could cause fires.

In his Aug 20, 2019 order, Judge Amular declared that he needs time to study the voluminous records of the case.

He also remarked that the expropriation case is one of a kind in the Philippines and he wanted to be prudent with his rulings.

Still, business leaders in the city hope for a swift but just resolution to the case in order to sustain the developments in the city.

“We hope that the court will decide in due time and with a high sense of justice to all parties concerned, especially the consumers like us,” the real estate investor told Daily Guardian.