"The Ilonggos are waiting."
The Iloilo City government is set to auction off on Dec. 12 the distribution assets of Panay Electric Co. (PECO) for failing to settle its realty tax that has accumulated over the years. The assets are worth P89 million.
Sources at the Iloilo City Hall claim PECO’s realty tax woes began in 2006 when the city treasurer demanded that they pay the taxes for the lots where their 30,000 electricity poles were erected.
With the company facing final closure for failing to get Congress’ approval to renew its 95-year-old franchise, the city government likewise disapproved PECO’s request for an extension in settling its tax delinquency.
Failing to get an extension for the payment of its tax liabilities, PECO reportedly questioned, a few days ago, the legality and accuracy of the tax assessment by the city before the Local Assessment Board.
Sources say Mayor Jerry Trenas, already enraged by PECO’s refusal to heed his earlier call to settle their tax debt, was fuming mad after learning that Marcelo Cacho, PECO administrator, reportedly shunned the mayor’s complaints regarding the alarming number of PECO’s electricity poles catching fires based on the official report of the Bureau of Fire Protection.
Cacho, a former legislator who practically grew up in the wings of his father, also former mayor of Iloilo City, will definitely find it hard to swallow losing one of the family’s businesses.
To the amazement of many, the embarrassment of losing their prime business through a congressional act, which they never lost even during the Marcos years, was apparently too much to take that the Cacho family launched a legal fight to block businessman Ricky Razon’s takeover of its power distribution company.
But the saying “you can’t fight City Hall” appears to be true, as the said LGU is set to auction PECO’s distribution assets next month. This would definitely shut down the lifeline of its operations.
One wonders: If PECO loses its distribution assets but the Energy Regulatory Commission does not revoke its provisional license, what kind of permit or business license would it use to distribute electricity to its customers if the local government wants it closed?
If it loses ownership and control of the distribution assets in the Dec. 12 auction, including the 30,000 electric poles in the city’s streets, what would PECO’s next move be? I say “Abangan ang susunod na kabanata
Only if a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a settlement is reached between the city government and PECO, or if it redeems its distribution assets by paying its tax arrears, could PECO prevent this eventuality. If not, the company can only watch as its distribution assets are sold to the highest bidder within the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, the Ilonggos are waiting.