Lawyers fear PECO may be deprived of power assets

By Manila Standard Business 
September 29, 2018 at 08:00 pm

Lawyers of Panay Electric Co. disclosed an alleged plan to deprive the Iloilo City-based company of its power distribution facility through congressional expropriation of a private property.

In a letter to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Carpio & Bello Law Offices of Davao City in behalf of Peco cited an admission by More Minerals Corp. that it has no electric power distribution assets, and merely intends to buy the existing system owned by Peco, as well as simply absorb the company’s workers who already possess the technical know-how and expertise to run the business.

“In other words, MORE will acquire electric power distribution assets and get expertise and personnel for the purpose of riding on the power of Congress to expropriate which HB 8132 appears to gladly hand over to it, in gross violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the prohibition against the undue delegation of legislative powers,” the letter stated.

According to the lawyers, MMC has not submitted a “comprehensive, year-to-year roll-out plan” as required by the government.

The Peco lawyers said HB 8132 which was originally submitted by MMC was substituted by House Bill 8032 which could pave the way for expropriation proceedings.

The counsels asked the speaker to stop the committee “from committing a travesty of justice and causing undue damage and prejudice” to Peco, citing as proof the alleged attempt to rush the approval of the measure seeking the grant of a new franchise to MMC, a relatively small mining firm based in Metro Manila with a capitalization of P2.5 million, which was later adjusted to P10 million.

The lawyers described the committee’s actions as a “brazen attempt to circumvent the well-established rules of the House of Representatives” by switching measures embodying the MMC’s franchise bid.

Representatives of the Energy Regulatory Commission attested during Wednesday’s committee hearing that the regulatory body recommended the renewal of Peco’s franchise as early as November 22, 2017.

The House committee, however, did not follow ERC’s recommendation and expedited instead the approval of the MMC bill in only 45 days, the lawyers said.