DOE monitoring Iloilo power situation amid legal tussle betwen PECO, MORE
Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Energy (DOE) is closely monitoring the power situation in Iloilo City especially in the summer months amid the  legal tussle between Panay Electric Co. (PECO) and More Electric Power Corp.

“Definitely, DOE is closely monitoring the situation in Iloilo and has to ensure no disruption of services,” said DOE director Mario Marasigan.

MORE was granted a franchise to operate a distribution network in February last year while PECO’s franchise expired in January last year.

Its franchise gives a two-year transition period to PECO which was granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“The issue in Iloilo is not on supply, it’s on the operation of PECO plus their legal concerns with MORE,” Marasigan said.

However, Marasigan said the DOE does not expect any supply shortage in Iloilo City since Panay is still exporting to Cebu and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) is operational in Visayas.

As of Tuesday, the Visayas power reserves reached 186 megawatts (MW) versus available generating capacity of 2,174 MW and demand of 1,988 MW.

After it was granted a franchise, MORE had secured a go signal from the Iloilo regional trial court (RTC) to expropriate PECO’s assets, but the 95-year-old utility firm had asked the  Mandaluyong RTC to stop the expropriation.

The case has reached the Supreme Court (SC), which stopped the Mandaluyong RTC from enforcing its ruling which declared the franchise granted by Congress to MORE and the expropriation of the assets of PECO as unconstitutional.

MORE recently asked the SC to remove the Iloilo RTC judge hearing its expropriation case against PECO for grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, and violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular said the expropriation case on the assets of PECO has become too politicized that it should be transferred to a court outside Iloilo City.

But in a recent decision, the SC denied the petition filed by PECO to move the case outside Iloilo City to consolidate it with the case pending then with the Mandaluyong RTC.

In its resolution, the SC rejected PECO’s premise that public scrutiny could affect the judge who handled the expropriation proceedings as not valid as “the mere possibility of prejudice is not sufficient to justify a transfer of venue, as aptly argue(d) by respondent MORE.”

The High Court also said PECO failed to present “adequate proof that the accompanying publicity may cause prejudice to it.”

PECO also “failed to prove that a miscarriage of justice would arise in the event of that the subject case continues to be heard in the RTC of Iloilo City,” SC said.

 “To the argument that there is a possibility that the two co-equal courts (Iloilo City and Mandaluyong City RTCs) would render conflicting decisions, the same had been rendered moot and academic by the fact that the Mandaluyong RTC has already rendered its judgment” which is now pending review by the SC.

MORE president Roel Castro said “the SC order denying the petition of PECO to transfer venue of the case is self explanatory. Anyone who reads it will understand the meaning of it.”

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