PECO wants ERC to back off
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Last week, I was in Iloilo City for several days. Because I didn’t experience any power interruption, I have forgotten that I was in a city which is the subject of a raging war between Panay Electric Co. or PECO, which has been supplying electricity to Ilonggos for 97 years until its franchise expired last Jan. 19, and MORE Power owned by businessman Enrique Razon, which recently secured a congressional franchise to supply power in Iloilo City and three other municipalities.

To ensure continued service in the franchise area, PECO was allowed in the interim to continue distributing electricity by the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

But not for long if MORE succeeds in convincing ERC to issue it a certificate of public convenience (CPCN) to engage in the distribution of electricity and if it succeeds in the expropriation proceedings it has filed to take over PECO’s assets used in distributing electricity in Iloilo City.

PECO last March 6 filed a petition for declaratory relief with the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court, asking for a TRO to prevent the expropriation proceedings, the takeover by MORE of PECO’s distribution assets, the issuance of a CPCN by the ERC, among others. It also sought to declare certain provisions of Republic Act 11212 which granted MORE’s franchise as unconstitutional and invalid, in particular the sections pertaining to the right of eminent domain and transition of operations, saying that these amount to an arbitrary and confiscatory takeover of its assets.

PECO emphasized in court that it had no obligation to sell its assets to MORE and neither has MORE the right to expropriate PECO’s assets, adding that MORE which had no assets, facilities or equipment will effectively be allowed to own PECO’s entire distribution system if it is allowed to expropriate its assets.

On March 11, MORE filed an expropriation case before the Iloilo RTC to acquire PECO’s assets, saying it was ready to pay P480 million which is the estimated value of the assets as just compensation.

Last March 12, the Mandaluyong RTC issued a TRO, ordering MORE not to push through with its expropriation proceedings against PECO.

But MORE went to the Court of Appeals and on March 28 got a 60-day TRO against the Mandaluyong court’s halt order.

In justifying the TRO, CA Associate Justice Elihu Ybanez said PECO’s franchise had already expired and another franchise has been granted to MORE, that under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) only the Supreme Court can prevent franchises granted to distribution utilities like MORE, that it is illegal for the Mandaluyong court to prevent the DOE and ERC from performing their mandate under the EPIRA, and that the lower court’s TRO was in effect extending PECO’s franchise which is an authority vested only in Congress.

PECO’s lawyers believe that ERC should not be embroiled in the ongoing legal battle with MORE and should in fact suspend hearings being conducted in connection with MORE’s CPCN application.

ERC claims that the TRO only pertains to the actual issuance of the CPCN to MORE and not ERC’s powers and functions under EPIRA, including the conduct of public hearings.

But the lawyers cautioned the ERC against favoring an immediate MORE takeover of PECO assets, saying MORE does not have the expertise, the experience, and the manpower to manage and run a power utility, not to mention that public officials supporting what may be declared later as an unlawful takeover may be held liable.

Freelancer concerns

Freelancing is fast becoming an important segment in the Philippine economy, according to leading global online payments company PayPal.

In fact, the Philippines has one of the largest proportions of freelancers to total population in the world, with two percent of its economy made up of freelancers, according to PayPal Southeast Asia Cross-Border Trade general manager Nagesh Devata. There are around 1.5 million freelancers in the country.

A recent online survey conducted by PayPal in April among Filipino freelancers has revealed that as much as 92 percent saw job stability as a key concern for their careers.

But Devata noted that while flexibility and autonomy are some of the core benefits of freelancing, this comes with its own challenges, including job stability, and as freelancers move from contract to contract, it becomes difficult to forecast their businesses.

Around 64 percent of Filipino freelancers say that having more than one client is important to succeed as a freelancer. This allows them to hedge the unpredictability of work and diversify their income streams.

Devata said that the more experienced freelancers have learned to work around the job stability challenge by investing in client relationships and managing their time across multiple clients.

Nearly 54 percent of the respondents said that building client relationships is the best approach to improving job stability. Other approaches include charging higher rates (20 percent) and upskilling with additional training (14 percent).

Freelancers also face challenges that come with having and juggling multiple clients, with 69 percent of the respondents citing time management as the biggest challenge, followed by different client requests (12 percent), and building new client relationships (six percent).

Another challenge to managing multiple jobs from various companies or employers across the globe is having a cross-border payments platform or system that allows freelancers to receive payment, and get paid on time.

Devata pointed out that most freelancers work online and remotely for employers from outside the Philippines, mostly from the US, Australia, the UK and Canada.

He said that by facilitating cross-border payments seamlessly with their industry-leading products, strong strategic partnerships and global outreach, PayPal is an international bridge for freelancers and businesses, especially SMEs. Besides providing freelancers access to funds quickly, PayPal also empowers them by providing access to global customers, and helping them to widen and increase their client pool.

With offerings like PayPal Business mobile app and PayPal.Me, PayPal enables freelancers and small businesses to invoice their clients and customers on-the-go as well as track all of their incoming payments through their phones.

Devata added that by enabling freelancers’ access to the digital economy on a secure platform, PayPal hopes to continue playing an important role in not only helping them to survive, but to scale and realize their growth ambitions.

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