SC upholds MORE Power’s right to distribute power in Iloilo City

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality that Enrique Razon-led More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) is Iloilo City’s power distributor.

In a resolution released on Tuesday, the high court voted 9-6 to affirm its September 15, 2020 ruling which settled the dispute between MORE Power and Panay Electric Company (PECO) over the control of the power distribution business in the city.

The SC ruled that PECO can no longer operate Iloilo City’s distribution system since its franchise lapsed. PECO’s electric distribution franchise ended in January 2019. A month later, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11212 or MORE Power’s franchise.

The high court likewise upheld the constitutionality of Sections 10 and 17 of the franchise, which give the firm the powers of eminent domain and to utilize any power distribution asset in the city.

“Clearly, in granting MORE the right to exercise eminent domain, the primordial concern of the Congress is the welfare of the residents of Iloilo City, who rely on the distribution system of PECO. There is no question that PECO’s franchise was not renewed, thus, it can no longer operate the distribution system in Iloilo City,” the decision read.

“MORE, as the new franchisee, is mandated under Section 2 of RA 11212 to operate and maintain the distribution system in the best manner possible. To be able to do so, its right to expropriate the distribution in Iloilo City to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity should not be hampered by unfounded allegations of undue benefit and corporate takeover,” the ruling added.

The SC did not give credence to PECO’s arguments in its motion for reconsideration, saying it touched on these extensively in the September decision.

Following the approval of MORE Power’s franchise, the Iloilo Regional Trial Court ordered the transfer of the possession of assets from PECO, which was Iloilo City’s electric provider for nearly a century from the early 1920s until it lost its franchise. PECO’s franchise wasn’t renewed by Congress for its reported poor service record.