Rome wasn’t built in a day—neither was it built alone.
In a way, this is what the most recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) is all about. By pledging to work together for the public good and institutionalizing their work process, these entities hope to resolve common public concerns that affect Meralco’s services, and ultimately, its customers:
- Illegal connections which include services of some government and public structures
Delay in the issuance of permits that affect our access to uninterrupted and reliable electricity
Slow relocation of poles that need to be transferred because of government infrastructure projects
Behind all these are a complicated knot of issues—leadership changes, coordination among these entities and even with other government agencies, legal or right-of-way issues, and other sensitivities.
The MOU aims to unravel most of these knots to get the electricity flowing and the lights on faster.
But how does this MOU affect you? Why should you care?
Well, for starters, it’ll help Meralco double down on the illegal connections and intensify the energization of government or public structures. Aside from being potential fire hazards, these illegal connections encourage illegal activities, undermining the government’s strong thrust to stop criminality.
Meralco needs strong government support to act on these issues, as the law states that the utility company needs to catch these thieves red-handed, with police personnel present during the apprehension. With the help of DILG, together with PNP and BFP, MERALCO can now implement more initiatives to apprehend both: those who allow illegal connections to their own meters, as well as those who bypass the meters by connecting straight to the power line.
The MOU therefore minimizes not just the risk of fires, but also system loss, which affects our electricity rates.
You can also expect DILG to push for a more efficient processing of the Certificate of Final Electrical Inspection (CFEI), which, more often than not, is a cause of delay in the energization of electric services. The partnership with DILG will encourage LGUs to grant these permits faster with fees that are more consistent across the board.
We often hear complaints about Meralco poles not being relocated as roads are widened, with photos of poles left in the middle of streets making the rounds on social media. But there are times when Meralco is literally caught in the middle—even when trucks and teams are ready to relocate those poles, they’re prevented from doing so because of delays in receiving the necessary permits.
Moving forward, the DILG will assist to ensure the swift issuance of permits and to help secure rights-of-way from concerned LGUs. This will aid in prioritizing the relocation of MERALCO’s electric poles that are in the path of urgent government infrastructure, road widening, and real estate development projects. The parties will also try to address recurring issues related to permits, taking into account Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Law, which aims to streamline the current systems and procedures of government services.
Despite differences in policies and operations, there’s no reason that the private and public sector can’t work together for the common good. Through this new partnership, MERALCO is determined to tackle the concerns of its customers and the general public head-on, by working closely with relevant agencies from the public sector.
What’s significant is that the MOU puts on paper the agreement, so that even with changes in leadership in any of the entities, we can expect that the coordination will continue for expedient public service.
To further strengthen the collaboration between the agencies, an Executive Committee (EXECOM), co-chaired by both Meralco and the DILG, has been formed. MERALCO assigned specific people to lead the coordination: Atty. Oscar P. Moreno, Jr. and Engr. Sante C. Buella. They are joined by DILG Undersecretary for Public Safety Nestor F. Quinsay, Jr. who serves as co-chair, PNP Director for Operations Major General Alfred Corpus, and BFP Chief Director Jose S. Embang, Jr. The LGUs, as well as other relevant government agencies, can count on them for immediate response to concerns such as fires, emergencies, and power outages.
No idle hands here
This isn’t just an initiative that looks good on paper. MERALCO and the above-mentioned government agencies have identified four pillars that the MOU will focus on, namely public order and safety, regulatory compliance and legal matters, strategic operations and communications, and corporate social responsibility.
Each of these pillars is designed to have a dedicated committee and technical working groups. The goal of each committee is to pass a set of guidelines that will be used to implement key programs that are in the interest of the public.
The MOU was signed on December 21, 2020 by MERALCO’s Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. William Pamintuan, and Chief Commercial Officer, Engr. Ferdinand Geluz, as well as Interior Sec. Eduardo Año, then-PNP Chief Debold Sinas, and BFP Chief Jose Embang, Jr.