PANAY ELECTRIC Co., Inc. (PECO) said Iloilo City’s plan to auction the land on which its electric poles stand is the subject of pending litigation, and that it made an initial property tax payment to a court hearing the dispute.

“Since 2017, we have had a pending case with the Local Board of Assessment Appeals questioning the Real Property Tax (RPT) assessment issued by the City of Iloilo in 2016. As such, the RPT assessment is not yet final and conclusive,” the company said in a statement.

PECO said it was in talks with Iloilo City’s government business permits and licensing office.

“In fact, we tried to make a payment but this was refused by the City Treasurer’s Office constraining us to consign the RPT in court. This means that we have paid an amount to the (Regional Trial Court) which they now hold,” it said.

“The bigger question is why this issue is being resurfaced now. It seems very clear that this is part of a continued black propaganda being waged by our rival to taint our image and discredit our organization. Despite these, PECO is still committed to serving the people of Iloilo as we have done so in the last 95 years,” it added.

The company was responding to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas’ announcement the other day that the city government has scheduled the auction of PECO’s assets to pay for the distribution utility’s unpaid real estate tax liability and penalties amounting to P106 million, dating to 2006.

Mr. Treñas said the move would solve the local government’s collection problem with PECO whose liability allegedly piled up through three mayors despite demand letters to the company.

His office said PECO’s tax liability had been a result of its refusal to pay the real estate tax assessed by the City Treasurer’s Office on the land where its electricity posts stand. The land will be auctioned on Dec. 12. — Victor V. Saulon