THE Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca) opposed the franchise expansion of More Electric and Power Corporation (More Power) to 15 towns outside Iloilo City.

In its position letter sent to First District Representative Franz Alvarez, chairperson of the Committee on Legislative Franchises of the House of Representatives, dated September 28, 2021, Philreca said it is opposing House Bill 10271, which was introduced by Iloilo Representatives Michael Gorriceta (Second District) and Braeden John Biron (Fourth District).

House Bill 10271 seeks to extend the franchise of More Power to 15 towns outside Iloilo City.

Gorriceta and Biron filed the bill following concerns of their constituents on high electricity rates in the franchise areas of Iloilo I Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ileco I), Iloilo II Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ileco II), and Iloilo III Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ileco III).

The bill will amend Republic Act (RA) 11212, which allows More Power to expand and enable to establish, operate, and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, the distribution system of the 15 towns comprising the Second and Fourth Districts of Iloilo Province.

RA 11212, signed on February 14, 2019, grants More Power a distribution utility franchise for Iloilo City.

Lawyer Janeene Colingan, executive director and general manager of Philreca, said their opposition on the amendment is anchored on the following:

* The areas being added to the franchise of More Power are already being served by Ileco I, II and III. Granting More Power a legislative franchise to operate in these areas would be a violation of RA 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Epira), and RA 638, or the National Electrification Administration Act.

* The premise that "More Power has reduced electric rates in Iloilo City from one of the highest in the country to one of the lowest in the country" is not only without context but this is actually flawed.

* In the long run, More cannot offer cheaper and more affordable electricity and energy cost in the areas being added; instead, it will only charge the consumers a higher rate.

* Barking up the wrong tree: Differences in consumer's power rates are primarily due to generation cost, not distribution cost.

"We hope that that above concerns are enough for the committee to consider that expanding the franchise of More to cover areas already being served by electric cooperatives will not benefit the public. At best, it would only result to higher most of electricity," Colingan said in the letter.

The 15 towns that will be part of the amendment are Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Zarraga, all in the Second District of Iloilo; and Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Duenas, Dumangas and San Enrique and the City of Passi, all in the Fourth District of Iloilo.

These towns are currently served by Ileco I, Ileco II, and Ileco III.

In September 2021, More Power was able to lower its electrical rate from P6.4 per kilowatt hour in July to P6.38 per kilowatt hour.