Iloilo City lawmakers are urging the Energy Regulatory Commission to conclude and, if needed, impose penalties against Panay Electric Co. regarding the numerous incidents of electric pole fires that are safety hazards to the residents.
Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda lauded Mayor Jerry Treñas for asking Malacanang and the ERC to investigate PECO and the pole fires due allegedly to aged transformers or overloaded wires.
“The authorities must look into the matter with dispatch to avert any further fire incident,” Baronda said.
“Our national government authorities should look into the complaint of the people of Iloilo City, which Mayor Treñas brought before their attention. We do not want another fire to cost a life or property before we do a concrete action,” the solon added.
“I fully support the action taken by our mayor. Let us see what the outcome will be and when the results come out, if needed I will raise the matter before the House Committee on Energy,” she said.
The ERC has sent a technical team to Iloilo City to verify the complaint of Trenas but the team is still preparing its report. The regulator also checked the compliance of PECO’s distribution system with existing technical standards.
Baronda expressed alarm over the report of the Bureau of Fire Protection to Treñas that the alleged lack of maintenance of the distribution equipment and overloading caused nine pole fires in three days from October 19 to 21 alone.
Baronda said the ERC finding— especially if it proves PECO’s failure to do maintenance or replace its aged distribution equipment and electricity poles caused the fires—could be a strong basis for the commission to cancel the utility firm’s two-year provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity.
PECO currently operates as the power distributor of Iloilo City even if its franchise has already expired. The franchise of new distributor More Electric Power Corp. grants it a two-year transition period which allowed PECO to operate via the CPCN even without a franchise.
Under Republic Act No. 11212 which gave MORE the franchise, the ERC was authorized to issue PECO a CPCN to ensure continuous electricity supply in the city until MORE completes the transition to full takeover as Iloilo City’s electricity utility.
“We will see what the action to be taken by the concerned government agencies relevant to the same and if warranted, seek the imposition of a sanction or sanctions for violations of its CPCN,” Baronda said.
He noted that prior to the passage by both the House and the Senate of MORE’s legislative franchise, the Department of Energy and the ERC gave assurance that the DOE was ready with a contingency plan that involved the National Electrification Administration taking over Iloilo City’s electricity distribution network from PECO until MORE completes its takeover.
PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas B. Nograles, vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Energy, said the ERC should exercise its power and responsibility to protect consumer interests.
Nograles said Congress is closely monitoring the ERC investigation to ensure that the safety of Ilonggos are protected by utilities like PECO.
PECO has waged a legal battle against MORE stopping it from taking over its distribution assets in the city after rejecting an almost P500 million offer by MORE for its facilities.
MORE vowed to spend at least P1.7 billion in the next three years in modernizing Iloilo’s electricity transmission system to ensure reliable and efficient electricity supply.