PECO: Is MORE scamming Iloilo?

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

A day after rival firm More Electric and Power Corp. (MEPC) scored its planned P1-billion investment plan, Panay Electric Co. (PECO) retaliated with this question:

With the consecutive blackouts across the entire Panay Island, and the almost simultaneous electric pole, fires in the city, the residents of Iloilo are now asking the difficult question: Is this sabotage?

“I am indignant for the people of Iloilo. The coal plant shutdown and the almost-simultaneous pole fires in different areas of Iloilo make me wonder if there’s something happening behind the scenes,” Marcelo Cacho, PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs, said.

“Customers are asking us: is this sabotage by those who want to ease us out of Iloilo to force our hand to give up? I certainly hope not,” Cacho added.

The Razon-owned MEPC recently said that it plans to invest P1.7 billion in the next three years to upgrade Iloilo City’s electricity distribution facilities such as: system reliability projects, system loss reduction projects, system capacity projects, and safety improvement projects.

According to PECO, the current power distributor in Iloilo, although MEPC’s announcement sounds like a solid investment, the amount it is claiming to invest is only a third of the P7 billion  needed to build a functioning power grid and develop infrastructures for distributing power in Iloilo City.

“This is a cruel joke. They just confirmed our worst fear: that they are scamming the people of Iloilo and the government,” Cacho stressed.

“At P1.7 billion over three years, most of Iloilo would be totally without power. You can’t even build a super low-end rudimentary power system for Iloilo for that amount.”

He added that a total of 57,000 smart meter units are needed to serve the whole Iloilo province which costs P3,500 each, which will require a new power distributor to spend P199.5 million.

Moreover, putting up five substations will cost MEPC another P100 million each; and another P25 million per kilometer for a 69-kilovolt (kv) loop completion.

“We want to assure our fellow Ilonggos that we will keep up with the energy demands and ensure them that we will do the right thing. We will continue to strengthen our resolve in serving and finding the best energy solutions for the people of Iloilo, my kasimanwa,” Cacho shared.

“The P1.1-billion that we intend to spend in the next ten years for infrastructure expansion and upgrades are over and above our existing assets, which are worth four or five times more than what MORE is planning to invest,” Cacho added. “So, who is really being gimmicky here?”

“This is a sucker play, plain and simple, by a greedy company that wants the people’s money without working or seriously investing for it,” Cacho stressed.

According to him, the P1.7 billion is only enough for some distribution poles “but you won’t be able to wire them, and will not be enough to build all the needed substations, create software for smart distribution, and any of the dozens of other expenses involved in putting up a grid.”

“On the other hand, PECO’s investment in Iloilo’s power infrastructure has spanned decades,” Cacho said. “It wasn’t as easy as flicking a switch.”

Earlier, the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong rendered judgment in favor of PECO declaring the expropriation efforts of MEPC unconstitutional “for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law” and “permanently enjoining” MEPC from proceeding with the expropriation.

MEPC has already appealed this judgment with the Supreme Court and even asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to counter the permanent injunction issued by the RTC of Mandaluyong.

However, in a resolution dated August 14, 2019, the Supreme Court denied MORE’s prayer for TRO.  Moreover, MORE and Judge Yvette Go of Iloilo were directed to show cause why they should not be declared in contempt of court for continuing with the expropriation proceedings.

“Our appeal to MORE is to respect the Supreme Court and await the final resolution on its petition,” Cacho said.