Consumers’ group mulls PECO ‘takeover’


MARCELO CACHO (2nd from left), Information Technology and Administration officer of Panay Electric Co. (PECO), and Iloilo City Councilor Jay Treñas discuss the removal of electrical posts blocking the road in Brgy. Caingin, Lapaz, Iloilo City on Nov 6, 2017. Behind them are Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo, PECO Corporate Communications Officer Mikel Cacho Afzelius, and Councilor Ely Estante. (Photo courtesy of Tara Yap)

A CONSUMERS’ group is planning a move akin to a corporate takeover of Panay Electric Co. (PECO), the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, by converting refunds to consumers into company stocks.

The group, which is still in process of being organized, told The Daily Guardian that their move is in reaction to PECO’s application to renew its congressional franchise for another 25 years.

TDG learned that City Councilor R Leone Gerochi, committee on public utilities chair, is planning on Nov 14, 2017 to file a resolution which will ask his colleagues to appoint an official representative to the hearing on PECO’s franchise renewal to be conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Nov 22.

House Bill 6023, which seeks the renewal of PECO’s franchise by another 25 years, was filed by Rep. Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo in July 2017.

Also, Gerochi will also file another resolution asking the council’s support to the move to convert PECO refunds to its 54,000 consumers into company stocks which will allow consumers to partly own the distribution utility.

The refund is mandated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) through an order dated June 9, 2006 and later modified by another order issued on Nov 16, 2009.

The June 2006 order directed PECO to refund consumers more or less P2.89 billion in over-recoveries or overcharges in a span of nine years, from February 1996 to July 2005.

But the refundable amount was lowered to P631 million in Nov 2009 as the original figures included fuel bills charged by PECO’s power supplier.

Part of the P631-million refund is P3.12 million for pilferage over-recovery which PECO should return to its consumers as mandated by Section 12 of Republic Act 7832 of 1994 (Anti-Pilferage Law).

In a modified order dated Nov 19, 2009 signed by ERC chairperson Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut, the regulatory body emphasized that “the Commission maintains its position that pilferage recoveries should be deducted from the power cost of PECO and returned to consumers by reflecting the amount in its monthly bills.”

The refund is a result of the case filed by the Freedom from Debt Coalition represented by its legal counsel Romeo P. Gerochi.

The Iloilo City consumers’ group said they will also file a petition with the ERC seeking an audit of PECO’s refund and at the same time seek the conversion of the remaining amount into stock options for consumers.

A top PECO official told TDG that they will wait for the group’s move in the city council and the ERC.

The official said the refund issue has been settled by PECO with ERC and that the distribution firm has implemented the ERC order.

Aside from the consumers’ group, Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim has been gathering signatures from consumers in a bid to oppose the renewal of PECO’s franchise citing poor services.

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