November 17, 2019 at 09:40 pm
Alena Mae S. Flores
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has assured the public it is impartial in resolving the case involving the electric pole fires that plagued the franchise area of Panay Electric Co.
“It would be prudent for the Commission to evaluate and analyze the situation surrounding the reported pole fire incidents in PECO’s franchise area holistically and not on a per incident or asset basis,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera 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. We are mindful of the urgency of resolving this matter and we wish to assure the public that this is among the priority concerns of the Commission,” she added.
ERC has also distanced itself from PEC0 as it asserted its independence particularly in relation into its ongoing inquiry into more than 2,000 electricity pole fires in Iloilo City since 2016.
ERC denied it was involved in a press conference PECO held last week.
“The ERC has no participation, in any manner, in the said press conference. The ERC remains 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,” said Devanadera.
ERC has already completed its field inspection and data gathering as part of its investigation on the series of pole fire incidents in the PECO franchise area.
“The findings of the technical team will be presented to the Commission Monday and released to the public accordingly,” the ERC chief said.
ERC responded to an appeal from Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda and PBA Partylist Rep. Jericho Jonas B. Nograles, vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Energy, to speed up the ERC investigation into the issue.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas earlier filed the complaint to address PECO’s failure to prevent the continuing threat to public safety by PECO’s “inadequately-maintained lines, power outages and hazardous electric posts” because of the numerous and continuing cases of electricity pole fires in the city.
Treñas said PECO studiously ignored informal and formal appeals from his office to address the problem by fixing or replacing its old distribution wires and electricity poles.
PECO had lost its congressional franchise after failing to convince Congress to renew it when it expired in January 18 this year over mounting consumer complaints against the poor quality of its service and the safety issues against its distribution assets.
PECO is now operating under a provisional Certificate of `Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the ERC until the new distribution utility, More Electric and Power Corp., completes its full takeover of the city’s distribution system.
It is also operating with no business license because it has failed to settle a P97-million real estate tax arrears with the Iloilo City government since 2006, which Mayor Treñas tried to collect upon reassuming his elective post as City Mayor in 2016.
PECO offered to settle but failed to convince the city government to accept the lower offer, resulting in Treñas approving an auction on December 12 of PECO’s distribution assets, including the dilapidated electricity poles and the land where they stand on, with a floor price of P106-million to pay off the utility’s tax obligations.
Losing these vital distribution assets could affect the viability of PECO’s provisional CPCN as the ERC resolution governing its issuance of the operating permits to utilities require the recipients to ensure they have continued compliance with financial and regulatory requirements.