PECO slams MORE ‘harassment’

More Power President and COO Roel Castro and Maria Lourdes Cacho

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

Amid the enhanced community quarantine order in Iloilo City, MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE), rival firm of Panay Electric Company’s (PECO) in the power distribution services of Iloilo City, cut the power supply to PECO’s main office and threatened to do the same in the homes of the Cacho family who own PECO.

In a letter sent to PECO and the Cacho family, MORE stated that the main office and the households use “unmetered” electricity and asked the Cachos to apply for a MORE electric meter or face disconnection.

“Their claim that we are using unmetered electricity is not true, we are still using PECO’s meters since PECO is still nominating power for Iloilo,” PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho said.

“They just want to phase out our meters prematurely, despite the fact that the case concerning the constitutionality of this takeover is still pending in the Supreme Court,” Cacho added.

“This is a petty and ill-advised tactic. They are simply pre-empting the Supreme Court,” stressed PECO legal counsel Estrella Elamparo. “

Several Cacho family members received MORE’s demand for re-application, including 81-year-old Maria Lourdes Cacho, who suffers from a broken arm and lives alone.

MORE made the demand despite the stern warning of health authorities that seniors are more susceptible to the COVID-19 infection.

Leaving the safety of her home at this time would not only put the senior at risk, it would also be in violation of the guidelines set for the lockdown.

Jose Maria Cacho, Marcelo’s 55-year-old uncle, is blind. His wife Diana is a doctor who is currently a person under monitoring (PUM) for COVID-19.

“This is harassment of the highest order. They want my injured 81-year-old grandmother to leave her home during the lockdown, even when she’s one of the most at risk,” Marcelo Cacho said.

“We all just want to focus on making sure everyone is safe, and then they threaten us by cutting power that we at PECO paid for,” he added.

MORE’s letter was also sent to PECO’s main office on Saturday. The same day, MORE disconnected the main office building from PECO’s own purchased power by cutting the line from the substation.

“MORE didn’t follow the rules of the ERC which requires them to give a two-day notice before disconnection, and no disconnections on weekends,” Elamparo noted, stressing that following the rules, the disconnection should have been done on Tuesday, the second working day after the letter was served.

PECO is still the only power distribution company registered with the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) in Iloilo, according to the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) website.

MORE’s application is still pending.

This means that PECO is still the only entity that is officially designated to purchase power for Iloilo City. Without PECO’s nomination of power, there will be no electricity for MORE to distribute.

“With PECO still being the rightful operator of the distribution facilities, as well as the entity that to this day purchases the power for distribution to the entire City of Iloilo, it is MORE that is stealing electricity from PECO in violation of Sections 2 and 3 of Republic Act 7832,” Elamparo revealed.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) released a call for solidarity last week, asking distribution utilities across the nation to defer consumer payments and put a hold on all disputes until the country’s health situation stabilizes.

Judge Emerald Contreras from Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 23 also ordered MORE to return operations of the power distribution facilities to PECO last March 6.

MORE claims that it has received a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), but ERC hearing officer Atty. Ma. Corazon Gines confirmed in a March 11 hearing that MORE had only been granted a Provisional Authority.

PECO is currently contesting the issue but has deferred to the ERC’s directive that all disputes will be on hold during the lockdown.