PECO files anti-competition rap vs MORE Power

By Adam J. Ang

THE former electricity provider of Iloilo City filed on Monday an anti-competition complaint against the city’s present power utility.

Embattled distribution utility Panay Electric Co., Inc. (PECO) said it filed with the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) a complaint against Razon-led MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) for allegedly prohibiting competition in electricity distribution in the city.

“As soon as it was granted a franchise, it saw the opportunity of handicapping or disabling possible competition from competing with it, and of course, the most probable competitor would be PECO, being the existing distribution facility in Iloilo at that time,” PECO Legal Counsel Estrella C. Elamparo said in a virtual briefing on Monday.

The company alleged that the new distribution utility exhibited “predatory, anti-competitive” behavior, thus violating the provisions and principles enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, the Philippine Competition Act, and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

MORE Power now runs Iloilo City’s distribution system after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed a measure granting its franchise for 25 years in February.

Since then, it took over PECO’s power facilities via eminent domain which a Mandaluyong court later found “unconstitutional.” The company then asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Iloilo Regional Trial Court’s decision which affirmed the takeover.

“Instead of putting up their own system, it chose to take over instead all the assets of its only potential competitor,” Ms. Elamparo said.

On Friday, consumer group Koalisyon Bantay Kuryente, which the PECO counsel also assisted, filed with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) a complaint against MORE Power for overcharging customers for system losses and exceeding the regulator’s mandated limit for billing the said charge.

PECO followed with a manifestation, claiming that the utility increased its system loss charges in May and July to 76 centavos per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and 66 centavos/kWh, respectively, from April’s 47 centavos/kWh.

The increase represented an overcharging of around P25 million from Iloilo consumers with 55,000 megawatt-hours of usage, it claimed.

Moreover, PECO slapped a libel and cyberlibel charges against Francis Gentoral, the executive director of the Iloilo Economic Development (ILED) Foundation. The business group recently published a media statement claiming that the former has overbilled consumers in the past and caused numerous investors to flee the city.

The publication reached out to ILED Foundation for a reaction, but it has yet to respond as of press time.

“We are fighting for our rights and to stop ILED Foundation from tarnishing the reputation of PECO,” Ms. Elamparo said.

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