By: Emme Rose Santiagudo and Francis Allan L. Angelo
PANAY Electric Co. (PECO) told its rival firm MORE Electric and Power Co. (MORE Power) to wait for the resolution of pending court cases before attempting to take over power distribution services in the city.
PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo Cacho was referring to the case they filed with the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court Branch 209 in Metro Manila questioning the constitutionality of MORE Powers congressional franchise.
MORE Powers franchise is embodied in Republic Act 11212 which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Feb 14, 2019.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Cacho said the Mandaluyong City case is a precedent to future actions and decisions, hence it should be first resolved before MORE Power can expropriate PECO assets.
MORE Power has filed on March 11, 2019 an expropriation case with the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City in a bid to acquire PECOs distribution assets.
PECO tried to stop MORE Power in its tracks by securing a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Mandaluyong City RTC Branch 209 on March 13.
“The Constitutional question is a grave and a serious matter, that will be a precedent to future actions and decisions so that should be answered before expropriation can happen,” he said.
Cacho is also convinced that MORE Power cannot secure a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
A CPCN serves as the permit for a utility to officially start its operations.
“CPCN cannot be granted at least if you dont have technical personnel nor do you have technical assets. Those are the two major requirements of CPCN. Currently, MORE Power does not have a CPCN and the technical personnel on the ground. They may have presented a few administrative personnel but how about the people on the ground that would operate the substations or act as trouble shooters? “More importantly, they dont have (distribution) assets. How can they take over if they dont have assets?” Cacho added.
While MORE Power already has a congressional franchise, it lacks CPCN from the ERC.
PECOs provisional congressional franchise already expired on Jan 19, 2019 and its CPCN will end on May 25.
According to Cacho, PECO has already filed a motion to suspend the expropriation case at the Iloilo City RTC while the Mandaluyong City RTC hears the constitutional issues raised against MORE Power’s franchise.
“If the Iloilo City court grants the expropriation of PECO’s assets but the Mandaluyong RTC would conclude that it is illegal, then the assets would go back to PECO. Considering that we filed first with the Mandaluyong City court, the Iloilo City court will have to wait for the decision of the Mandaluyong Court,” he said.
Cacho also pooh-poohed the recent statement of MORE Power officials that they are open to an amicable settlement with PECO.
“I am sorry pero the basic rule is kon may kinahanglan ang tawo sin-o gapalapit haw? Di bala ang may kinahanglan. If they want to confiscate our assets and they expect us to be the one calling them, medyo illogical,” he stressed.
As regards the claims of MORE Power that more than 15,000 meters of PECO consumers are either out of order or old, Cacho said broken down meters are but natural in their line of business, which caters to at least 60,000 consumers.
In a year, at least 2,000 meters are expected to break down and we actually replace them, especially under our smart meter program, Cacho said.
Citing their own inventory, MORE Power claimed that more than 2,000 PECO meters are out of order while more or less 13,000 are at least 15 years old.
Cacho said old meters are regularly recalibrated under ERC auspices while they are transitioning to smart meters.
We cannot replace these old mechanical meters to the electronic type then move to smart meters because that would entail additional cost. So what we are doing is to recalibrate the old meters while we roll out the smart meters, he added.
So far, PECO has installed 1,000 smart meters in LaPaz and they are following through other districts. The firm expects to finish the smart meter rollout in five years.