DOE: Legal row between Peco, MORE won’t disrupt Iloilo power

By Lenie Lectura -January 15, 2020
from Business Mirror

THE Department of Energy (DOE) has served notice that it will not allow the legal tussle between Panay Electric Co. (Peco) and More Electric Power Corp. (MORE) to disrupt the supply of power in Iloilo City.

“Definitely, DOE is closely monitoring the situation in Iloilo, and we have to ensure there’s no disruption of services,” DOE Director Mario Marasigan said on Tuesday.

The agency, he said, continues to monitor and assess the impact of the court decisions related to the dispute of the two distribution utilities.

“The issue in Iloilo is not on supply, it’s on the operation of Peco there plus their legal concerns with MORE,” added Marasigan.

However, Marasigan doesn’t think there will be a shortage in supply in Iloilo City, since Panay still exports to Cebu and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) is operational in Visayas.

As of Tuesday, Visayas power reserves stood at 186 megawatts versus available generating capacity of 2,174 MW and demand of 1,988 MW.

Recently, the Supreme Court rejected Peco’s petition to transfer the expropriation case filed by MORE to any court outside Iloilo City.

Peco wanted the case transferred to another court “on the possibility that the judge handling the subject case may be subjected to public pressure since all his/her actions are under close scrutiny.”

However, the SC said, “The mere possibility of prejudice is not sufficient to justify a transfer of venue, as aptly argued by MORE.”

The High Court also said that Peco failed to present “adequate proof that the accompanying publicity may cause prejudice to it.”

Moreover, Peco “failed to prove that a miscarriage of justice would arise in the event that the subject case continues to be heard in the RTC of Iloilo City.”

The SC resolution arose from Peco’s opposition to the expropriation proceedings initiated by MORE, with the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court in March 2019, as the latter invoked Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act 11212 to expropriate the distribution assets of Peco in exchange for about P500 million in line with its 25-year congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212 granted MORE, as the new distribution utility in Iloilo City, the powers of eminent domain and to expropriate any asset, including existing distribution assets in the city.

MORE had secured the franchise after both chambers of Congress ignored Peco’s application to renew its franchise, which expired on January 18, 2019.