"Things are evidently better with the new distributor."
With the Supreme Court set to decide on the legal issue between the two distribution utilities, franchise holder More Electric and Power Corp. and former distributor Panay Electric Co., electric consumers of Iloilo City, led by the city’s biggest transport cooperative, are calling on the High Court to take into consideration the plight of the 65,000 power consumers in the city who will be directly affected by its decision.
More Power holds the legislative franchise to operate the electricity distribution system of Iloilo City. It was also granted a business permit by the Iloilo City government and Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (from the Energy Regulatory Commission). Despite these, PECO continues to question the takeover of its business operations, saying it was unconstitutional.
According to Halley Alcarde, General Manager of Western Visayas Transport Cooperative, More Power has proven itself capable of managing the distribution system of Iloilo City even if it has only been in operation for six months.
Alcarde claims that compared to PECO’s operations which lasted for several decades, consumers have experienced better, more reliable and efficient services from More Power in the past six months.
Though acknowledging the SC would have to eventually decide based on the rule of law, Alcarde says there are hoping the magistrates can also consider the appeal of the consumer and prioritize it and really look at the situation in Iloilo City and the huge difference in power supply in Iloilo. Further, even More Power’s social media accounts would show the real sentiment of the public, specially how satisfied the consumers are with its services.
While the city is still experiencing brownouts, the transport leader says those are scheduled power interruptions. The public is given an advisory on when it will be resolved. This is so unlike the situation with the previous distributor, where consumers were not informed about how long the brownouts would be or how soon power would be restored.
Francis Gentoral, Executive Director of the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc., says that More Power has a strong sense of accountability and transparency by providing the right service to consumers even though they are still in the transition phase.
Gentoral said IEDF, which has been actively wooing investors to Iloilo City, said they have noted a marked improvement in the status of power supply under More Power.
Gentoral said investors are now optimistic about Iloilo City, unlike during the time of PECO when some investors decided not to pursue their investments due to unreliable power supply.
As facilities for power distribution in Iloilo City have remained antiquated, More Power president Roel Castro earlier said it would take three years to modernize Iloilo City’s distribution system. To do this, the company has committed a capital expenditure of P1.8 billion.
Castro said the company has already started with its modernization program by fixing the dilapidated systems of PECO.
More Power continued with its system upgrades even during the COVID pandemic. It has since upgraded 100 distribution transformers, replaced 100 electric poles and fixed 97 hotspot connectors, replaced switchboards at transformers in all five substations and replaced electric meters of around 15,000 residents.
Based on the technical study conducted by Miescor Engineering Services Corp., PECO manually operated most of its facilities which were completed during the 1960s. They are outdated and could cause fires. These outdated facilities caused the capacity load of power substations to go up to 90 percent when it should have been at 70 percent only.
Aside from the consumer groups, several multi-sectoral groups also expressed support for More Power, including those from the religious, teachers and the transport sectors.
“From visibility, transparency, rapid response, courteous personnel, to leading a transformational impact in the campaign to rid Iloilo City of power thefts, the new utility distributor is creating change,” said Pastor Nestor Gonzales, another leader representing the religious groups.
While transport leader Alcarde readily accepts the fact the SC, at the end of the day, would have to rely on what is provided for by the law in deciding the case, they also are in the right position to appeal before the High Court to take into consideration the interest of the people who would be affected by its decision.