‘LIAR, LIAR’: Telco exec raps PECO over pole fire yarn

The dispute over the real causes of pole fires in Iloilo City has led to name-calling by a telco official against power distributor PECO. (F. A. Angelo)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

A ranking executive of telecommunications outfit PLDT rapped a top official of Panay Electric Company (PECO) for implicating telephone companies in pole fires in Iloilo City.

PLDT Vice President for Visayas and former PLDT-Iloilo Manager Rene Lescano called Marcelo Cacho, head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs of Panay Electric Company (PECO), a “liar” when he attributed some pole fires to telco wires.

Lescano said they only have 2,000 poles in Iloilo city and only 800 are made of wood, compared to the 30,000 poles owned by PECO.

In response to the complaint of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas against pole fires, PECO cited reports in 2017 to 2019 that of the 709 pole fires recorded by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Iloilo, only 138 involved PECO poles.

The remaining 571 fires involved poles owned by telcos.

“He is lying. It is not correct to say that the more than 500 posts are ours because we have very few wooden poles compared to theirs,” Lescano said.

Lescano clarified that the fires did not spontaneously erupted in the poles but were caused by the electrical wires of PECO.

In recent media interviews, Cacho said that messenger wires of PLDT also carry high voltage.

But Lescano explained that their messenger wires are not electrified, thus they don’t have voltage. These are made of steel and serve as tension wires to copper and fiber cables and are connected to the grounds to serve as lightning protection or arresters.

He also clarified that the copper cable has very minimal voltage of 24 volts if idle but peaks to 49 volts when in use.

“It’s just like a volt of a battery which can never cause fire of that magnitude which requires the BFP to respond. It is clear among engineers and utility companies that the real cause of the fires are PECO’s electrical wires. And since our lines and cables are closely attached to their secondary lines, they get burned in the process,” Lescano added.

The PLDT official also agreed with the explanation of Chief Inspector Christopher Regencia, Iloilo City Fire Marshall, that only electricity wires, either damaged or overloaded, can actually cause fires, not telephone or cable TV wires.

“Maybe Cacho, who is not an engineer, has no knowledge at all, or he is just using us as scapegoat. I really feel bad about it. It is just too bad that he is claiming such but never informs us every time we meet with other utility companies.”

Lescano is one of the founders of the Iloilo City Public Utilities group where PECO is also a member.

In a report to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the BFP claimed that more than half, or 1,464 cases, out of 2,887 fire incidents in Iloilo City since January 2014 were caused by pole fires.

Earlier, Cacho hinted at sabotage when power outages and pole fire reports dominated the news amid PECO’s dispute with MORE Power over power distribution services in Iloilo City.