Billionaire opens up on Iloilo power feud
Billionaire ports operator Enrique Razon went public on Tuesday with guns blazing against a power distribution company, which one of his companies was fighting with, for the right to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.
In a statement, Razon shot back at Panay Electric Co. (Peco) over what he said was Peco’s claims that one of Razon’s companies, More, was not qualified to run an electric firm.
The billionaire is majority stakeholder of More, parent firm of More Electric Power Corp., which was the beneficiary of a franchise bill pending in Congress.
“We certainly never want to have the qualifications of Peco,” Razon said in his statement.
“We are exactly the opposite of Peco because we have a track record of success in startups and large-scale projects not only in the Philippines but globally,” he added.
Razon, who also chairs global port management firm International Container Terminal Services Inc., said Peco had not addressed at least 1,800 pending customer complaints.
The complaints, his statement said, involved “poor services, overcharging of power bills with some reaching more than 1,000 percent, accumulated billings due to erroneous meter readings, technical failures, poor customer service, high electricity rates, constant power interruptions and unexplained charges.”
“Peco has become a rent-seeking business run by the family who are multiplying and draining the resources and earnings of Peco through dividends for themselves,” Razon said.
“They are a throwback to the hacienderos of lore,” he added.
“They behave like the franchise is a birthright. It is a privilege, not a right,” Razon added.
Last month, Peco president Miguel Luis Cacho said the company always heeded rules and guidelines of the Energy Regulatory Commission to be a top electric utility in the country.
“This is evident as seen in its strong partnership in the growth of Iloilo City in recent years,” Cacho said.
But Razon said Peco ranked 20th in the list of distribution utilities in the Philippines, which he said was an indication of poor performance.
Razon said considering Peco’s franchise area was a compact and contiguous urban area, it should have been on the Top 5 or Top 10.
“If Peco had been doing a good job, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to apply for this franchise and transform it into a modern, efficient, low cost and state-of-the-art distribution network,” Razon said.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the government might have to take over power distribution in Iloilo City if the mess between Peco and Razon’s company was not sorted out.
The Peco franchise was set to expire in January 2019.
The House of Representatives had already approved a bill granting a new franchise to More, which was awaiting approval by the Senate.
Cusi on Thursday said the Department of Energy and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) had already organized a task force to take over power distribution in Iloilo City “in case there will be no settlement in the issue.”
“We would like to see both parties agree and submit their transition plan to ensure there will be no interruption of service,” he said.
“But in case they cannot agree, [NEA] will take over as a holdover to ensure there will be no disruption,” he added.
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