PECO franchise renewal in peril, say lawmakers

Several lawmakers are convinced they should not renew the legislative franchise of Panay Electric Co., a House of Representatives leader said Tuesday.

The failure of PECO to rationalize its billing system, following repeated and multiple complaints of over-billing or erroneous billing from Iloilo City residents, has helped congressmen decide to thumb down its franchise, said Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez.

As chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, Alvarez said the recent record of sudden increases of up to 1,000 percent in the monthly electricity bills of many Iloilo City residents is “just one of the incompetency” that swayed the committee members to no longer extend PECO’s franchise.

Officials of the power company could not be reached for comment as of presstime.

PECO has been the sole electricity distribution company in Iloilo City for the past 90 years. Its legislative franchise expires on Jan. 18, 2019.

Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim pointed out that early this year the city had to ask the Energy Regulatory Commission to help resolve the complaint of many Iloilo residents of exorbitant increases under a new metering system employed by PECO.

During the ERC session last April 2018 with the complaining Iloilo residents, PECO officials admitted the errors occurred because the new meter reading system it implemented countered a city ordinance on how consumers could have their own electricity consumption monitoring card.

The ERC resolved 80 percent of the complaints of the Iloilo City consumers, except the ones that concerned the sudden increase in their bills due to alleged uncollected consumption.

This indicated the utility firm continued to have problems in its system, Alim pointed out.

The councilor said this is the point of the recent report of Singapore consultancy firm WSP. 

It concluded that despite the recommendations in 2010 by business group Iloilo Economic Development Foundation for systems improvements and infrastructure reforms to improve its services, PECO’s operations continued to lag behind that of other distribution utilities in key Philippine cities like Manila, Cebu and Davao.

The gap widens if PECO would be compared to other countries in Asia, the WSP noted.

ILED Executive Director Francisco Gentoral also noted that the WSP recommendations are “just the minimum steps that a distribution utility should take to serve its stakeholders,” and not even those that would match the services offered in other regions in Asia.

Topics: Panay Electric Co. , PECO , Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez
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