THE SENATE on Monday approved on second reading a bill expanding the franchise area of MORE Electric and Power Corp. in Iloilo.

House Bill 10306, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11212, will allow MORE to establish, operate and maintain an electric power distribution system in the cities of Iloilo and Passi, as well as the municipalities of Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Zarraga, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Duenas, Dumangas, and San Enrique.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto oversaw the interpellation and amendment of the bill in place of Senator Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares, the primary sponsor, who had to leave the session for personal reasons.

A new section was added authorizing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to determine whether market abuse or anti-competitive behavior by parties to any power sales agreement operative in the franchise areas. Parties to any power sales agreement are allowed to renegotiate their tariffs if such a finding is arrived at. 

The bill also requires that any amendment to the power sales agreement not diminish or impair the financial investment entered into by any party.

At an earlier hearing, the legislators heard testimony about how customers switching to MORE as a result of the expansion would affect competitors.

ERC Legal Service Director Maria Corazon C. Gines estimated that around 50% of Iloilo 1 Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s (Ileco 1) consumers will switch to MORE as its price per kilowatt-hour (kwh) is P6, or against the cooperative’s P11.

If consumers transfer to MORE, the base or the billing determinant — the basis for the computation of the rate — for the remaining Ileco consumers will be reduced, thus increasing the cost per kwh, she said.

“It’s the price that makes the customer want to choose another distribution utility,” she added.

The ERC has estimated that the franchise area expansion will affect 40% of Ileco I’s current sales, 55% of Ileco II’s, and 13% of Ileco III’s. The expansion will affect six municipalities served by Ileco I, seven municipalities and one city served by Ileco II, and two municipalities served by Ileco III. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan