More power to Iloilo City

By Herbert Vego

AN amendment to a law and a new law are aimed at providing us residents of Iloilo a better way of life . The former refers to the amendment to Republic Act 11212 – expansion of the franchise of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) from Iloilo City to 15 towns and a component city — which is as good as approved.

The latter, RA 11891, on the other hand, was reportedly signed by President Duterte on June 29 or one day before his last day in office.  Sponsored by Rep. Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda, it is an act creating the Iloilo City Hospital.

We invited MORE Power’s lawyer, Allana Babayen-on, to our radio program Tribuna sang Banwa on Aksyon Radyo last Sunday to talk about the franchise expansion.  There was no word yet as of that day on whether Duterte had approved or vetoed the franchise expansion that had unanimously passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“He did not veto the franchise expansion bill,” Babayen-on assured us. “This means that, as the Constitution provides, the law would take effect 30 days after submission to the Office of the President and 15 days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation.”

She revealed that, with no less than company president Roel Z. Castro presiding, the company’s department heads and other key officials had gathered together for three days of intensive planning and discussion on the gigantic tasks lying ahead.

All of the linemen and engineers had undergone retraining for much more efficient, accident-free service.

The hiring of new personnel was likewise discussed.

As the law authored by congressmen Mike Gorriceta and Braeden John Biron specifies, coverage expansion would include Passi City and the municipalities of Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Zarraga, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Duenas, Dumangas and San Enrique, all of which are still being served by the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO).

Asked whether ILECO had filed any formal opposition to the amended franchise law, Babayen-on said there was none. She added, however, that MORE Power would always be ready to defend itself and let whatever court cases be settled in a court of law.

What if, instead of complaining, ILECO proposes a joint venture?

“Why not if it would redound to the good of everybody? We would rather not be confrontational,” she said.

Methinks, too, that it would be a better alternative on the presumption that ILECO would be unable to compete because of the big difference in current billing rates.  While MORE Power still charges households an average of ₱8 per kilowatt-hour, those of the three ILECO branches range from ₱11 to ₱13.

Atty. Babayen-on also cited the role of the Iloilo City mayor, Jerry P. Treñas, in the rapid expansion of power connectivity in the city brought about by massive construction of commercial and residential buildings. In its two years of city operation, MORE Power has grown from 62,000 to 86,000 customers.

Going back to the brainchild of Cong Jam-Jam as embodied in RA 11891, it would equip the city with its own 200-bed hospital – an old but elusive dream of previous solons – to rise on a city property at barangay San Pedro.

To be called Iloilo City Hospital (ICH), it would relieve two public hospitals – the West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) and the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) –of the problem of accommodating the poor medical and surgical patients who could not afford hospitalization in pay wards. To this day, these hospitals have to line up patients for confinement on a “first come, first served basis.”

“Glad to have made it,” one such patient named Argie Caro, 39, texted this writer. “Please thank Congresswoman Jam-Jam for recommending me for admission.”

Argie’s case goes beyond his financial capacity. He suffers from inflamed cells in the head and lungs.