Incidents of fire caused by illegal electricity connections in Iloilo City reached disastrous proportions in the past 10 years because the old utility tolerated the proliferation of “jumpers” or illegal connections according to Iloilo City civic leaders.
These illegal connections reached 30,000 based on the technical study of MIESCOR Engineering Services Corp, which could be attributed to the 9.3 percent system loss of the city.
The civil leaders said PECO’s tolerance of the illegal electricity connections caused much of the 3,000 incidents of fire in electricity poles in the city because under More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), no fire incidents occurred since March when it took over.
Iloilo East Baluarte Barangay Chairman Gary Patnubay said during “The Community Energy Forum 2020,” illegal connections were the main cause of the fires and about 30 to 40 percent of his constituents were involved in illegal connections.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Iloilo City had recorded nearly 3,000 cases of electricity pole fires in the past five years under PECO, many of which were caused by illegal electricity connections.
Patnubay said MORE Power initiated a program to legalize the illegal connections by making it easy for the residents of the barangay to apply for connections.
He said even some wealthy residents were found to have illegal connections but to date, 75 percent of East Baluarte residents have applied for connection.
“What happened during the time of PECO, PECO wants them to pay the unpaid bills and fine in full utang. PECO does not allow staggered payments so the residents were forced to illegally connect. These illegal connections are not monitored by PECO because they have a weak monitoring system thus this is why illegal connections increased,” he said.
Aside from illegal connections, the Bureau of Fire Protection reported to the Energy Regulatory Commission that more than half of fire incidents in Iloilo City came from pole fires.
From January 1, 2014 to October 29, 2019, BFP reported that there were 2,887 fire incidents of which 1,464 or 51.187 percent came from pole fires of PECO.
BFP said the pole fires were due to the short circuit from exposed electricity wires and overloading due to illegal connections.
ERC is investigating the pole fires after Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas expressed alarm over the incidents which could pose a hazard to city residents.
Meanwhile, Ariel Castañeda, chief of the Apprehension Team of More Power said the door to door crackdown of “Oplan Valeria” in the past two weeks revealed some 3,000 residents engaged in illegal connection.
“Apprehending illegal electric connections is a taxing task and most definitely involves the greatest risk on the part of the apprehenders but the efforts to rid the city of illegal connections are certainly paying off,” said Castañeda.
“For about two weeks of operations, we were able to apprehend more or less 3,000 illegal connections or jumpers, about 1,000 of which we have already converted to load applications. Of the said number, 600 already went to the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) to secure the needed requirements while 400 have already paid for new connections,” he said.