By Jordeene B. Lagare – November 15, 2019
from The Manila Times
PANAY Electric Co. (PECO) is not interested in selling its power assets to MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) or to other interested entities, its official said.
“We’re not interested in selling our assets to MORE [Power],” PECO head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho said in a press briefing on Thursday.
“But you know, we don’t feel it’s the time to get out, but we’ve felt it’s the time to start changing the industry,” Cacho told reporters. “We want to rather reform the industry,” he added.
The embattled power co-op made the pronouncement amid the legal battle with Razon-led MORE Power over which entity shall hold the license to operate as Iloilo City’s power distributor.
When asked if the beleaguered power service provider could still file a franchise, Cacho said “we can actually still file a new franchise actually at any given time, but we’ll wait first to see more movement in the courts.”
It can be recalled Congress opted to not renew PECO’s franchise that lapsed in January. A new franchise was instead awarded to MORE Power after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11212 in February.
To ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) granted PECO a provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN), an authorization issued by the regulatory agency to entities engaged in the transmission or distribution of electricity for the operation of a transmission or distribution system.
The license tussle prompted both parties to escalate the issue to the courts.
In the case of MORE Power, it brought to the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to push the expropriation of PECO’s assets under Section 10 and 17 of RA 11212.
PECO then turned to the Mandaluyong City RTC to halt the Razon-led firm from taking over its assets as the court found provisions of the MORE Power license “void and
unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”
This forced MORE Power to bring the franchise issue to the Court of Appeals (CA). The appellate court denied PECO’s petitions for temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction to halt expropriation proceedings before the Iloilo City RTC.
But PECO argued that the CA ruling is “moot and academic” since the case already reached the Supreme Court (SC) that denied MORE Power’s petition for TRO.
The SC had asked Iloilo Judge Yvette Marie Go as to why the judge should not be held in contempt for proceeding with the expropriation case amid the Mandaluyong RTC ruling.
Conversely, MORE Power went to the SC in hopes of a TRO issuance against the Mandaluyong Court but SC denied MORE Prayer’s petition on the said regional court resolution, upholding the permanent discontinuation of the expropriation case.
For the PECO official, the SC decision on what he described as a “landmark case” would create a precedent and that it concerned not only Iloilo City or its residents.
“The way that this expropriation has been written in will affect every utility in the country be it Meralco [Manila Electric Co.], be it PECO, be it all the cooperatives. This can impact every cooperative, because now it could create an opening for the takeover of every single cooperative by big businessmen that may or may not have the interest of the people in mind,” Cacho said.
He also pointed out that no assessment was made in this particular matter. Specifically, there must be a study if any entity can assume operations of any utility and that a set of policies must be in place before any takeover can be done.