Blackouts feared as fight for Iloilo electricity franchise heats up
Controversy continued to hound the embattled electricity distribution firm of Iloilo with the dispute for control of the lucrative franchise threatening to leave the city’s residents literally in the dark.
In a press statement, the camp of tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. accused the owners of the Panay Electric Co. (PECO) of blackmailing its customers by threatening to disrupt operations once the firm’s current legislative franchise expires in January 2019.
Razon owns MORE Power and Electric Co., which is eyeing the takeover of the Iloilo City electricity franchise that has been held by PECO’s Cacho family for almost a century. MORE officials accused PECO of neglecting its clients by failing to invest in new technology that has resulted in poor service for the booming city on Panay Island.
This has been denied, however, by the Cacho family who contend that PECO is one of the best run electricity distribution utilities in the country, and issues raised against it – like past incidents of “over billing” clients by 1,000 percent – have been resolved.
“We at PECO reiterate our commitment to the people of Iloilo City who have been with us for almost one century that we will not shut down any of our facilities (not unless legally stopped) contrary to malicious reports of parties who have been interested in giving the citizens fake news about our services,” company president and CEO Luis Miguel Cacho said.
“We strongly believe in fair play and will not let the people of Iloilo City be victims of greedy individuals and corporations who have resorted to squid tactics to derail our application for a franchise renewal,” he added.
The latest controversy arose after PECO lawyer Inocencio Ferrer was quoted in local media saying the Cacho family would never sell the company’s assets to Razon’s MORE even if the Cachos fail to secure a new franchise from Congress.
The lawyer’s statement runs contrary to the statement of the Cacho family that there would be no power shutdown while in transition to the new franchise holder, said MORE, which noted that it has so far received P2 billion in fresh capital from its owner in preparation for running the Iloilo electricity franchise.
The House of Representatives has awarded MORE Power a legislative franchise to operate a distribution utility for Iloilo City.
For its part, the Department of Energy (DOE) represented by Antonio Barcelona said it would “suggest that automatic divestment of assets is provided in the franchise” to allow for a seamless transition between the feuding firm’s.
Both the DOE and Energy Regulatory Commission assured there will be a smooth transition, with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi saying the DOE is studying its possible moves to prevent a citywide blackout when PECO’s franchise expires.
Lawyer Gregorio Ofalsa, officer-in-charge of the Consumers Affairs Service of the ERC, also made the same assurance saying they will not allow Iloilo City to plunge into darkness. /kga
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