Franchise renewal of electric utility firm in Iloilo junked

THE Iloilo City Council wants the National Government to take over the electric distribution utility firm in the city until such time that a company qualified to handle distribution comes in.

A resolution was passed during the council’s regular session Tuesday “vehemently denying the renewal of (the) franchise of the Panay Electric Company” (Peco) and urging the national government’s takeover.

Majority Floor Leader Eduardo Peñaredondo, however, abstained, saying that the resolution was “hastily prepared” and other groups, such as the business sector, were not consulted.

House Bill No. 6023, which seeks to renew the franchise of Peco — the sole franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City for another 25 years — is pending before the Committee on Legislative Franchises of the House of Representatives.

Peco’s franchise will expire in 2019.

The resolution, authored by Councilor R. Leone Gerochi, cited that Peco, in several cases lodged with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) by cause-oriented groups, was “declared to have overcharged its customers on several occasions and seems to have a penchant for overbilling its consumers”.

He disclosed that Peco was ordered to refund P631 million and to date, it has yet to be completed.

Gerochi also pointed out the “poor customer complaint service and erroneous and inconsistent meter readings thus, causing inconvenience to their consumers”.

“There is a lack of transparency in so far as the operations of Peco are concerned,” the resolution stated, adding the company has been operating for 90 years.

Meanwhile, Peñaredondo, in registering abstention, added that his colleagues passed their resolution but they “did not think what’s next”.

Instead, he said he agrees with the proposal that the refund for the consumers, which is about P124 million, would be used as money to buy shares of stock from Peco.

The money, he said, must first be audited to ensure its veracity.

“They have some misgivings, some violations of their franchise.

Consumers can use (the amount) as leverage so that their operations would be transparent,” he explained.

Members of the council will leave for Manila next week to attend the public consultation in Congress regarding the renewal of Peco’s franchise slated November 22. (PNA)
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