THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Thursday said it respects pending court cases between More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) and Panay Electric Co. (Peco), but maintained that it has the sole jurisdiction over the operation of distribution utilities (DUs).
“With respect to whatever the Regional Trial Court [RTC] has issued, insofar as the matter is within the exclusive authority of the ERC by virtue of the law, which is called Epira [Electricity Power Industry Reform Act], we stand by its order on March 5,” said ERC Chairman Agnes Devanadera in a radio interview.
The March 5 order of the ERC revoked Peco’s temporary Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). The same order also issued MORE a provisional authority (PA) to operate the power distribution network in Iloilo, “after determining that MORE has established or acquired its own distribution system and verified MORE’s complete transition to full operations.”
Devanadera made this clarification to clear up confusion among Ilonggos as to which of the two companies is legitimately operating as Iloilo City’s distribution utility when they pay their monthly bill.
“Insofar as the ERC is concerned, the ERC is the exclusive authority on the matters, supply of electricity and rates and that the power position is that since the ERC has spoken then the people or the consumers should also recognize the order of ERC which is MORE now being the distribution utility operator,” said Devanadera.
The ERC chief pointed out that a case between MORE and Peco filed with the Iloilo RTC is an expropriation case. “The RTC of Iloilo is an expropriation court so the jurisdiction is confined to the expropriation. As to the operation of the distribution utility, that is the exclusive jurisdiction of ERC…I don’t know how it can be done that MORE is put in place by RTC to have control over the distribution system and yet MORE will not be the one to operate. As I said, it is the exclusive jurisdiction of the ERC to determine who has the authority to operate.”
Peco’s franchise was no longer renewed but the ERC issued on May 21, 2019, a provisional CPCN to Peco so that supply of electricity won’t be hampered. The said permit is valid until MORE is able to establish or acquire its own distribution system.
MORE secured on February 14, 2019, a legislative franchise to establish, operate and maintain for commercial purposes a distribution system in Iloilo for 25 years.
On February 20, 2020, the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court Branch 23 authorized MORE to take possession of certain properties of Peco. The Writ of Possession (WOP) was served by the Iloilo Sheriff on March 2, 2020.
Thereafter, the ERC conducted its own inspection to verify this. The ERC subsequently revoked Peco’s CPCN and issued MORE a PA.