House bill seeking to amend MORE Power’s franchise coverage passes committee level

PHOTO CAPTION: Iloilo 1st district Cong. Mike Gorriceta’s co-authored House Bill No. 10271 seeking to amend the franchise coverage of electric power distribution utility MORE Power breezed through the House Committee on Legislative Franchises and could be introduced to the plenary floor when Congress resumes session in November./iNews (N. Glenn Aragon/Province of Iloilo Facebook page)

ILOILO–It could well be just a matter of time before the wish of second and third legislative district towns in Iloilo to be included in the franchise coverage of Iloilo City’s power distribution utility MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) is granted after the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises approved House Bill No. 10271 seeking to amend its franchise and expand its coverage outside of the metropolis.

This was based on the result of the hearing on the committee level spearheaded by Palawan 1st district Rep. Franz Alvarez yesterday.

According to Cong. Michael Gorriceta (Iloilo, 2nd district), who authored the bill with Rep. Braeden John Biron (Iloilo, 4th district), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also recommended certain amendments to Republic Act No. 11212 that granted MORE Power the 25-year franchise to distribute power in Iloilo City.

In addition, the Department of Energy (DOE) recommended the creation of a consultation panel together with the ERC, the National Electrification Administration (NEA), and Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) to discuss and potentially study how the amendment to MORE Power’s franchise would impact ILECO.

Meanwhile, ILECO, represented by general managers Engr. Mike Paguntalan of ILECO I and Engr. Jose Redmond Roquios of ILECO II, explained that they still have existing contracts with their respective power suppliers and thus can still provide reliable power for the foreseeable future.

On the part of MORE Power, its president and chief operating officer Roel Castro averred that if the amendments to their franchise are approved to include the second and fourth districts of Iloilo, they will immediately build the necessary infrastructure and facilities in the province while ensuring strong collaboration with the province’s electric cooperatives.

Gorriceta said the proposed legislation will be presented to the plenary when Congress resumes session in November.

He said it would be ill-timed to push for the bill by filing a committee report now considering that Congress will have a recess starting on September 30.

OPPOSED TO EXPANSION

Meanwhile, the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA) has written Committee on Legislative Franchises chairperson Rep. Frank Alvarez to express their position against House Bills No. 10271 and 10258, but specifically against the former which seeks to amend the franchise of MORE Power to include the second and fourth legislative districts of the province of Iloilo.

To note, included in the proposed expansion of MORE Power’s franchise area are the towns of Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Sta. Barbara, and Zarraga in the 2nd district and the municipalities of Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Dueñas, Dumangas, San Enrique, and Passi City in the 4th district.

According to PHILRECA, their opposition to the proposed amendment is anchored on four points: 1) that the areas being added to the franchise area of MORE Power are already being served by ILECO I, II, and III and that if allowed, would be a violation of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001; 2) that the premise that MORE Power has reduced Iloilo City’s electric rates from being one of the highest in the country to being one of the lowest is “not only without context but is actually flawed”; 3) that MORE Power, in the long run, cannot offer cheaper and more affordable electricity and energy cost in the areas being added but “will only charge the consumers a higher rate”; and 4) that “what they are doing is barking at the wrong tree as differences in power rates are primarily due to generation cost, not distribution cost”.

It further averred that “expanding the franchise of MORE (Power) to cover the areas already being served by Electric Cooperatives will not benefit the public… and will only result in higher cost of electricity.” (N. Glenn Aragon/iNews)

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