ILOILO CITY — Business leaders said the dispute between the two utilities over the right to provide the city’s power supply could damage Iloilo’s reputation as an investment and tourism destination, and asked regulators to intervene.

The Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILED), a group of business leaders and organizations with representatives from local government units, said it asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to step in and help address the concerns of both household and commercial consumers.

“ILED, in line with its mission to promote Iloilo as a preferred investment destination, underscores the urgency for word-class electricity service for Iloilo City. It (asks) the ERC to swiftly act on the complaints of the consumers and the issues of the investment community that are emanating from the ongoing stalemate between MORE and PECO as the rightful electricity service provider,” reads the letter signed by Chairman Terence S. Uygongco and President Jocelyn J. Perez.

Panay Electric Co. (PECO), the city’s distributor for over 90 years, failed to renew its congressional franchise last year and is currently operating based on a provisional authority issued by ERC in May.

The provisional authority will be in effect until More Electric Power and Co. (MORE Power), which now holds the franchise, establishes its own system and completes the transition period within two years.

The two companies, however, are currently locked in court battles over the validity of MORE Power’s franchise and the expropriation of PECO’s assets.

“Given that the ERC is mandated under the EPIRA (the Electric Power Industry Reform Act) law to handle complaints and ensure promotion of consumer interests, ILED calls upon ERC to make the necessary interventions in order to fast track the resolution of the current electric power transition issues. Time is of the essence if we are to secure the momentum of the economic growth and development of Iloilo City,” ILED said.

The group noted that power outages and dips in voltage have recently been a frequent occurrence. It also cited recent fire incidents involving PECO’s lines and electric posts.

“This has resulted in the hesitance of a number of BPO (business process outsourcing) businesses to pursue entry and/or expansion plans favoring Iloilo City. We are concerned that we will lose out to other cities in the Philippines, whose investment climate is much more favorable due to the absence of a power problem such as what Iloilo City currently faces,” ILED said.

The Department of Energy and ERC are currently investigating the outage and fire incidents. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo