Former Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim on Sunday called on Panay Electric Co. (PECO) to settle all its overbilling dues to the city’s power consumers, as this has been pending for so long and consumers can reap its benefits.
Alim, who opposed PECO’s franchise renewal in Congress, said Iloilo City consumers were victimized by overbilling of as much as 1,000 percent of their monthly electricity consumption.
“Overbilling is just one of the so many complaints of the PECO consumers before. There’s also billing without reading, arrogance of PECO personnel, inefficient service, dilapidated facilities, frequent power outages, among others. Plus high cost of power rates,” he said.
Alim said even the two Committees on Legislative Franchises of the Senate and the House of Representatives based their decision to award the franchise to a new company on the numerous complaints of overbilling by Iloilo consumers against PECO.
He said the overbilling resulted from the erroneous monthly bills arising from malfunctioning electric meters or a re-computation of power costs, which increased due to illegal power connections.
Alim also expressed concern over the findings of the new utility More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) from the technical study it asked engineering firm MIESCOR to conduct on Iloilo City’s distribution network.
It revealed that only two-thirds of the city’s total electricity consumption come from regular power connections, and the last third consumed by illegal power connections from small power users estimated to number 30,000 as of 2019.
“This is bad because not only were we paying for the high consumption from illegal power connections but were also overbilled by as much as 1,000 percent,” Alim said.
He said the overbilling is the prime reason why Ilonggos did not want PECO to continue operating after its franchise expired in 2018.
“We Ilonggos still oppose PECO returning to operating the electricity distribution system in Iloilo City,” he said, adding that PECO is not prioritizing its consumers.
Meanwhile, Alim said the recent city council hearing where MORE Power gave an update on the power supply situation showed the city accepted MORE Power as the only legal power utility in the city because it now has the franchise from Congress and the certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission.
“The repair and preventive maintenance works that caused the brownouts, which PECO is now saying proves the inability of MORE Power to manage the city’s power system, came from their own failure to invest in new capital equipment and technology, which MORE Power is now solving with its preventive maintenance work,” Alim added.
Separately, PECO has a pending overbilling refund to consumers as directed by the ERC in 2009 from an “over-recovery” of its purchased power cost.
For its part, MORE Power said the “rotting, decrepit” state of the Iloilo City power distribution network it inherited from PECO is now being addressed with a P1.8-billion, three-year rehabilitation program to give the city a secure and safe supply of electricity in the next 25 years.