The Visayan Electric Company (VECO) said it is already investigating reports about linemen or contractors extorting money in exchange for prioritization of the re-electrification of their homes or establishments following the onslaught of Typhoon Odette.
VECO, the country’s second largest distribution utility, added that it is taking this concern seriously and ensures that people who will be proven to have done such illegal actions will be penalized accordingly.
“We ask for cooperation from the public not to entertain or participate in these illegal activities. We highly urge everyone to report these incidents through our Visayan Electric hotline number [(032)-2308326] or send us a direct message on our Facebook page,” the Aboitiz-owned utility company said in a statement.
The company also emphasized that it is not liable for any damage or loss arising out of or in connection with the unauthorized re-energization arrangement entered into by customers. VECO does not warrant the quality of the wirings, equipment, or materials used in these unauthorized electricity connections.
Illegal connections are unsafe as they expose the public to fire and electrocution hazards and are against Republic Act 7832 or the Anti-Pilferage of Electricity and Theft of Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Act of 1994.
VECO said that the firm, together with its accredited contractors, and industry partners working within its franchise area do not require nor accept any re-electrification or prioritization fees. Restoration of electricity is also free of charge. Its teams on the ground are working 24 hours a day to fast-track power restoration efforts in Cebu.
The company said it continues to make progress in its re-electrification efforts, with a total of 269,747 customers now energized as of noon on Wednesday, driving power demand within the franchise area to 374 megawatts or approximately 75% of the pre-Odette level.
However, restoration teams also continue to discover the greater extent of the damage caused by Odette. VECO says it has 1,997 damaged poles, three and a half times the 560 damaged poles previously surveyed last December 26, and this number continues to rise as the utility accesses farther-flung areas.
The Department of Energy reported in its press briefing on Monday that VECO has restored power to 45.51% of households in its franchise area, which covers Cebu and Mandaue cities, plus six nearby cities and towns. VECO is expected to fully restore power in its franchise area on January 31.