If PECO is less, are we gonna benefit MORE?

INTERCOURSE | Rhoderick Maquirang TecsonMuch has been said about the Application for a Renewal of Franchise of Panay Electric Company (PECO) and its failing bid to secure it for another 25 years after the House of Representatives approved a new franchise application by the mining firm MORE Minerals Corp. who now wants to be identified as MORE Power Corp. who is owned by ports magnate Enrique Razon and being ably represented by his dummies err business associates – Walter Brown and Roel Castro.

Castro was the person who is instrumental in the establishment of the coal plant known as Palm Concepcion Power Corp. (PCPC) as its former president. He has resigned after being put to the task of launching another big money-making power venture by the Brown Group of Companies, which, all of the sudden, mutated into what we now know as MORE.

Perhaps the general public should know that PCPC in Concepcion, Iloilo, is a power generating firm that is now being operated by a huge majority of Chinese employees and officers. It has an interesting “corporate arrangement” considering that a power generation business has a direct correlation on issues regarding national security.

The influential partners, Brown and Castro, must now explain to the public the arrangement aside from their involvement and deals on MORE as a corporation. The tricks being employed by Brown and Castro are likewise very interesting. During the first hearing of the MORE Minerals on its franchise application at the Committee on Franchises under the chairmanship of Palawan Representative Chikoy Alvarez, who is, by the way, identified as one of Razon’s henchmen under the National Unity Party (NUP), Castro brought into the engagement Eric Bucoy, who is a former general manager of Aklan Electric Cooperative (AKELCO) by presenting the guy as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MORE. Poor Bucoy, he was not even aware that Castro brought him as a COO of MORE. Castro ‘burned’ a well-meaning guy in front of the honorable congressmen. Imagine the trick.

Consider this a record-breaking feat. The application for a franchise to operate a power distribution utility by MORE was only submitted to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises by Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting only last August 22, 2018. Yet it was approved by the House of Representatives last week. On the other hand, PECO submitted their application as far back as July 2017, but nothing has happened on its application. Simply put, it was ignored in favor of the MORE trio – Razon, Brown and Castro.

In addition, it was not only a record-breaking feat, it also disregarded the Ilonggo stakeholders by not even involving the Iloilo City Government. In fact, Iloilo City Rep. Jerry P. Treñas was nowhere to be found and he is suspiciously quite all throughout the process. Not even his name mentioned as among those who intervened on the application if only to give the people of Iloilo City a chance to be heard. While it is worthy to give him the benefit of delicadeza having been known as one of the inactive lawyers of PECO. Treñas may have forgotten that as an elected representative of Iloilo City, his first and foremost role was to stand up and participate in the deliberations and perhaps attempt to ask question about the hasty approval of MORE’s application.

Treñas is a lawyer and a respected leader in the city. It is very unlikely to say that he failed to appreciate the weight of delicadeza and personal interests over the looming problems being presented by the situation once MORE secured a franchise over PECO. Two more months and the PECO franchise expires, but it would be impossible for PECO to just cease operating or stop its power distribution for it will be detrimental and disadvantageous to the people and city of Iloilo whose economy is booming. Moreover, we cannot also discount that PECO will be facing legal problems if it continues with its operation without a franchise. Of course, there will always be options for remedy.

However, the biggest question is on Treñas who now wants again to become the City Mayor but who did not act and who was silent over the matter. He did not even consider asking his colleagues at the House chamber or the new applicant MORE if they already have a transition plan, and if they have, how are they going to execute the plan.

Those who campaigned against PECO and who suddenly made themselves heroes by proclaiming that they were instrumental in securing the approval of MORE’s franchise (and hey vote me! I’m your hero!), should now start to realize that the massive delays in the construction of roads by the public works department and the transfer of public utility poles along the highways are caused by an unrelenting issue like the road right of way. These problems have lingered for years now but these are mere poles alone. What about the power stations and sub-stations, power supply contracts, and power rates? These concerns will have to undergo the arduous legal and government processes, but without a transition plan, the power supply in the city is at worst, compromised. Now, where in the world is Treñas?

Probably, PECO’s time is finally up. But, do these dumb members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises assume that PECO will just take all of these sitting down and give-up their stake? Let us be reminded that of the 25,000 signatures from the consumers who were said to have complained against PECO, only 163 were verified to have been actionable and these were complainants with service numbers. What about the rest? That’s the problem of a politically-motivated actions by those who are now called as “Vote me! I’m Your Hero!

Furthermore, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has rated PECO as the most efficient in terms of managing power outages in the whole of Western Visayas, and, in fact, the fourth in the whole country. This is not a self-rate by PECO in order to make them appear as efficient in the eyes of the public, but rather by the ERC as a regulatory agency.

Admittedly, PECO’s real problem is poor customer service. But instead of fighting out needed adjustments and improvements, the people and City of Iloilo are now at risk. Sooner, PECO and MORE will face-off on a bitter yet necessary legal battle. Where are the consumers and stakeholders in this scenario? What about the congressmen? Or Treñas? Or those who celebrated their advocacy against PECO by riding (if not benefiting) on MORE?

As for the consumers, nothing can be worst by having all of these uncertainties and lack of real action, while others, including the “Vote me! I’m Your Hero!” but who are actually selling the Ilonggos to the Razon group, are now enjoying the windfall lobby money from MORE. Definitely, MORE money is coming their way.