MORE Power files expropriation case vs PECO

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By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo, Correspondent

ILOILO CITY — The legal battle for power distribution in Iloilo City continues as More Electric and Power Co. (MORE Power) filed on Monday an expropriation case to acquire the assets of current distributor Panay Electric Co., Inc. (PECO).

MORE Power, in its petition filed before the Iloilo Regional Trial Court, cited

Republic Act No. 11212 and Rule 67 in accordance with Sec. 2 of the Revised Rules of Court to assert its authority “to take possession of, exercise control over, and manage and operate” all the power distribution assets in Iloilo City.

Republic Act No. 11212 grants MORE Power the power distribution franchise for Iloilo City.

The expropriation of PECO’s assets in its favor, according to MORE Power, would allow it to “immediately address and correct poor services, overcharging, frequent brownouts, expensive rates, old and unsafe facilities and practices, and other service deficiencies that this city’s power users and consumers had long suffered”.

MORE Power said it is ready to immediately provide the estimated total value of PECO’s assets at more than P480 million.

In its petition, the company said it is “willing and able to deposit the amount of P481,842,450 in a bank that the Honourable Court will designate as a deposit in support of the plaintiff’s prayer for the issuance of a writ of possession.”

MORE Power also maintained that the assets they seek to control are already public property as consumers have repaid PECO for its investments.

It cited Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which states that “the costs for the acquisition, construction and establishment of the power distribution system were allowed to be recovered through the retail rate approved by the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission).”

“Considering that the retail rate already covers the capital recovery of defendant, these power distribution system assets are no longer purely private but are vested with public interest. Moreover, electricity is a basic necessity whose generation and distribution is imbued with public interest,” the complaint added.

MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, in a statement, said they the amount they are prepared to pay PECO is “just compensation.”

“The amount can be considered just compensation for PECO’s assets. Since the law is there and it authorizes us to take over whatever assets is needed for our operations on the basis of the power of eminent domain delegated to us, we already filed the case,” Mr. Castro said.

He added, “While we are open to negotiations with them, we will use the leverage and rights mandated by RA 11212 to us, especially expropriation. It is incumbent upon us to avail of the rights given by the congressional franchise or else the government will revoke it.”

Mr. Castro also gave assurance that they do not intend to do “something disruptive.”

“We are just exercising our rights under the law, with RA 11212. Unless the court issues an order, we will not make a move,” Castro said.

PECO, meanwhile, said they will wait for the decision of the Mandaluyong court, which has already been informed of the Iloilo case.

“Last week PECO filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief with the RTC of Mandaluyong City questioning the constitutionality of the franchise of MORE Electric and Power Corporation. At the hearing of PECO’s prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order this afternoon, MORE revealed that it had filed a petition for expropriation in Iloilo City to seize the assets of PECO. It is expected that the RTC of Mandaluyong would be issuing its ruling on the prayer for TRO anytime soon since the matter has already been submitted for resolution,” PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo U. Cacho said in a statement.

At the same time, Mr. Cacho said, “PECO will exercise all possible legal remedies in response to this development.”