PANAY Electric Co., Inc. (PECO), the former franchise holder of Iloilo City’s power distribution, has called the attention of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to look into how its rival MORE Electric and Power Corp. has been handling electricity distribution during the lockdown period.

In a virtual briefing Wednesday, PECO said it had filed with the regulator on May 22 a supplemental motion for reconsideration appealing, among others, to investigate the hours-long power outages that have beset the city in May under MORE’s watch.

“We are hoping that the ERC will call us for a hearing, or if not, resolve immediately our supplemental motion for reconsideration, given the escalating complaints of the consumers of Iloilo,” PECO legal counsel Estrella C. Elamparo told reporters.

In the motion, it also reiterated its right to due process when it was not informed of the ERC’s March 5 decision granting a provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN), revoking PECO’s provisional authority to operate as a distributor.

“This is still undergoing evaluation,” ERC Spokesperson Floresinda B. Digal said when asked about an update on PECO’s request.

The 97-year-old electricity utility cited the two 13-hour maintenance operations of the Razon-led power distributor on May 17 and 30 in Jaro district and Iloilo City proper, respectively.

Last month, MORE conducted maintenance works after the findings from Meralco Industrial Engineering Services Corp. (Miescor) suggested the immediate upgrade of PECO’s facilities. It was in February when the utility started taking over the assets of the former power distributor.

“This is what happens when you force major upgrades within a short span of time, rather than spreading it out over a period of time [and] checking your records what [were] previously replaced, which lines are previously upgraded, and only upgrading what needs to be upgraded as of the moment,” Marcelo U. Cacho, PECO head of public engagement and government affairs, said in the briefing.

Mr. Cacho also cited other instances of power interruptions during MORE’s maintenance of feeder lines, as well as consumers’ complaints on alleged inaccurate electricity billings and the replacement of meters without their consent.

The Jaro substation is servicing 100,000 to 150,000 electricity consumers, while the substation at the city proper energizes 50,000 households.

The ERC reminded Iloilo City consumers in a May 6 advisory that they should pay their bills to MORE starting the March billing period.

Meanwhile, PECO has submitted a motion for reconsideration with the city government after it revoked the company’s business permit in May, citing its lack of CPCN and franchise.

Ms. Elamparo said the two supposed requirements were never required.

The ERC had granted PECO a provisional authority to continue its operations before its 25-year franchise from the government ended on May 25, 2019.

The legal battle between the two power utilities is far from over as cases are still pending with the ERC, Iloilo Regional Trial Court, Cebu Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. — Adam J. Ang