House asked not rush Iloilo power franchise



The House Committee on Legislative Franchises was asked to stay the approval of House Bill No. 8132 granting a franchise to a mining company with no record in the power industry to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

In a letter on Sept. 24 to Palawan Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez, chair of the franchise committee, the law firm Carpio and Bello Law Office said it objected “in the strongest term possible” to the grant of a franchise to More Minerals Corp. (MMC) to distribute power in Iloilo.

Another proposal, House Bill No. 6023, is pending since July in Alvarez’s committee and sought to renew the franchise of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) to distribute electricity in Iloilo.

Due diligence

The bill granting a franchise to MMC had been filed on Aug. 22 by Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting.

The law firm, headed by lawyer Manases Carpio and representing Peco, said the franchise should not be granted to MMC without due diligence.

On Sept. 17, to the shock and dismay of Peco and its workforce, the Alvarez committee moved to approve the MMC franchise without allowing those opposing it a chance to speak out.

Citing records of the committee, Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, said renewing Peco’s franchise was based on track record and experience in power distribution.

It is “consistent with prior operator principle,” which gives preference to the prior franchise holder, wrote Carpio in his letter to the committee.

Rush

Carpio scored what he said was the rush to approve the franchise to MMC, a firm with no history of power distribution and with a paid-up capital of only P2.5 million.

Carpio also complained that, citing reports reaching his law office, the committee did not exert efforts to make sure Peco representatives and other stakeholders were present in hearings on the franchise.

In his letter, Carpio said the committee should “hold in abeyance” the approval of franchise for MMC “until after more public hearings.”

“We believe that this is the best way to serve public interest,” his letter read.

An umbrella organization of electric distributors across the country has also rallied behind Peco, saying a faulty decision by Congress would likely trigger a potentially damaging power crisis in Iloilo City.

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