ERC says Peco pole fires probe still ongoing
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Friday clarified that investigation on the series of pole fires in the franchise area of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) was still ongoing although being fast-tracked and there were no conclusions yet.
ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera said in a statement the regulator had completed its field inspection and data gathering and that concerned parties, including Peco, had been summoned to shed light on these incidents.
On Thursday, Peco representatives said in a media briefing the power distributor had submitted a report to the ERC showing that not all of the 709 pole fires that the Bureau of Fire Protection recoded over the past two years involved Peco’s electric poles.
According to Peco, some of the poles were owned by local telecommunications companies.
Peco reiterated its suspicion that the fires were part of efforts to sabotage the company’s operations. The utility is locked in a legal battle with the Razon group’s More Electric and Power Corp., which intends to take over Peco’s business through a newly secured congressional franchise.
“The findings of the technical team will be presented to the Commission Monday and released to the public accordingly,” Devanadera said.
“The ERC has no participation, in any manner, in the said press conference [conducted by Peco on Nov. 4],” she added.
Devanadera said the ERC remained independent in the discharge of its functions, including the conduct of investigations.
“Premature reporting of the outcome of our investigation is but a product of speculation that serves no purpose, except to confuse the public,” she said.
The ERC chief said an inspection team was sent to Panay in the first week of November in response to the letter-complaint filed by Mayor Geronimo Treñas of Iloilo City.
The regulator also directed Peco to submit a written comprehensive report to shed light on the pole fire incidents. The report was submitted on Thursday and Devanadera said this was now being reviewed together with the Commission’s findings from the field.
“It would be prudent for the Commission to evaluate and analyze the situation surrounding the reported pole fire incidents in Peco’s franchise area wholistically and not on a per incident or asset basis,” she said.
“The way that the poles are maintained over the years and the remaining useful life of the poles also needs to be looked into,” she added.