Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas finally must have come to his senses after at least nine incidents of fire within three days last month hit the dilapidated and obsolete wooden electricity poles in the “City of Love.”
Treñas has asked Malacañang to act decisively to solve the threat to public safety by “inadequately-maintained lines, power outages and hazardous electric posts” owned by the franchise-denied Panay Electric Co. (PECO).
Former Iloilo City congressman-turned mayor Treñas had been “playing neutral” towards PECO which had monopolized the distribution of electricity in Iloilo City for 95 years until Congress started hearings on which company should be given the congressional franchise as distribution utility. PECO’s franchise was set to expire last Jan. 19.
But when it became clear that congressmen and senators were leaning toward granting the distribution utility franchise to a company owned by tycoon Enrique Razon Jr., then Rep. Treñas voted against giving the franchise for Razon’s company, warning against a potential disruption in Iloilo City’s power supply if a new player is allowed to take over the operation.
Still, the experienced legislator Treñas acquiesced to the will of the majority as he was busy then reclaiming the mayoralty post which he and his father had held as certified Cory Aquino loyalists since 1986.
Barely a year back in City Hall, Treñas now finds it disturbing that despite failing to secure a new franchise and Ilonggos’ complaints, the Yellow oligarch-owned PECO mounted a vigorous legal and propaganda campaign to stop the takeover of its 95-year utility business by Razon’s company, More Electric and Power Corp. (MEPC).
Resisting its demise, PECO even filed a new application for a DU license as it insisted it was “never denied, just never given a chance,” to get back its congressional franchise, whining about Razon’s proven strong political network.
Amid PECO’s desperate efforts to gasp for a final breath of life with numerous legal cases all the way up to the Supreme Court, Treñas apparently could no longer ignore his constituents’ complaints. He asked the Office of the President to direct the ERC to do something about PECO’s failure to solve the problems with its primitive transmission lines and wooden electricity poles, which is susceptible to fire as electricity lines get cut easily by strong winds and rusting transformers blow up easily as well.
In a missive to the Presidential Action Center, Treñas listed nine incidents of fire that struck PECO’s electricity poles from Oct. 19 to 21 alone, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection’s report to City Hall.
We agree that public interest should be paramount in this case.
Aside from his office’s vigorous efforts to prod PECO to act decisively to fix the electricity pole fires, Treñas said he was obliged to take the necessary steps to address the needs of the people considering that their grievance against PECO has direct impact not only on their properties but on the lives of all residents of Iloilo City.
“While the attention of PECO had been repeatedly called (by the Office of the City Mayor) to address the (complaints), the city is still plagued by the same problems,” Treñas said in his complaint to Malacañang.
Treñas made sense when he said that as the agency mandated under Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to handle consumer complaints to ensure promotion of consumer interests, the Energy Regulatory Commission has the disciplinary powers to address the numerous consumer complaints against PECO.
The mayor’s sarcastic admission that PECO indeed is a fountain of consumer hatred of the cold-hearted and profit-oriented Yellow oligarch-owned businesses involved in providing public services is a welcome development, as President Duterte continues his efforts to streamline the economy and boost modern industrial standards that failed to take root under Yellow leadership in the past three decades since EDSA.
The Philippine economy is starting to make an impact on Asian regional growth with the administration’s Build, Build, Build Program, filling up the infrastructure gap that had slowed our economy’s progress due to Yellow oligarchs’ maneuvering to prevent competition from ever gaining a foothold. This was done through the restrictive investment rules put in the 1987 Constitution by Cory’s appointed constitutional commissioners.
PECO’s failure to upgrade and modernize its power distribution system is a glaring example of how the old rich have maintained their tight grip on our economy down to the grassroots—much to the detriment of the public.