[OPINION] Power blackout probe: SP’s time to shine

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“To avoid a blackout, electricity generating companies must lower generation in line with low demand.”—Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia

FOR the first time since after the May 13, 2019 elections, the Iloilo City council or the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP), will finally hog headlines when the inquiry on the frequent power blackouts that hit Iloilo City these past months will unfurl in the SP committee on public utilities on June 30, 2020.

The committee hearing is expected to attract a huge media attention since the invited parties are all heavyweights in the power industry—MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power), Panay Electric Company (PECO), and the Department of Energy (DoE).

The Iloilo Business Club (IBC) and the Department of Tourism (DoT) regional office are also expected to be present.

No other major issues have been tackled in the local legislature these past 12 months, thus the Ilonggos would be very eager to hear from their city councilors, who have started to load extra bullets in their revolvers during their regular session on June 23.

This may not be a namby-pamby discussion, but it is something that will at least help shed light on the causes of blackouts and their origins, in one way or the other.

Fireworks and tremors will finally shift from the executive branch or the office of Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas to the domain of Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon.

It’s now time for the city council to shine.

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Through the committee investigation, Ilonggo consumers will be able to understand and be enlightened about the frequent power interruptions, especially the ones that irritated and angered a lot of Ilonggos during the weekend, these past weeks.

Even during the pandemic lockdown, the power outage would sometimes last for 13 hours, it was reported.

Since MORE Power has been using the same distribution facilities formerly managed and owned by its rival PECO, both electric corporations are expected to bring a tennis table and nail each other during the committee hearing.

Interestingly, the blackouts occurred when the distribution of electric supply to thousands of consumers in the metropolis was already under the stewardship of MORE Power, owned by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr.

Could the power blackouts have been avoided had Razon’s company purchased and used their own facilities before elbowing out PECO from the scene?

What has happened to MORE Power’s “promise” to build some P1.8 billion worth of facilities once it has taken over the power distribution management from PECO?

These are some of the questions that might possibly surface during the committee investigation.

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Once the SP committee hearing will kick off, public attention will focus on the city government’s legislative body for many days as long as the topic continues to be relevant.

All the possible defense mechanism by MORE Power to justify the objects of the power consumers’ scorn will be scrutinized and examined piece by piece.

PECO’s attempt, on the other hand, to portray MORE Power as an eager-beaver but unfit and unprepared service provider will be reevaluated, but will have a lesser impact on whatever final recommendation and verdict on the investigation.

Even if the committee hearing will yield a report conclusively pointing to MORE Power’s negligence, it won’t change anything in as far as the granting of franchise to MORE Power to operate in Iloilo City is concerned.

The SP can censure parties that are neglectful, not resourceful, inept, and bungling and may recommend measures that can help alleviate the woes on blackouts, but it can’t strip any party of authority to continue serving the local power consumers.

The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo

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