Razon-backed power firm secures halt order vs PECO

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2019 03:09 PM

ILOILO CITY - Power firm MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE) has secured a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals against a halt order issued by a Mandaluyong court in favor of rival Panay Electric Company (PECO).

Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 209 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio on March 12 ordered MORE not to push through with its expropriation proceedings against PECO and its takeover of PECO’s assets.

PECO had challenged certain provisions of Republic Act 11212, which granted MORE’s franchise, alleging that these amounted to an arbitrary and confiscatory “takeover” of its assets.

It claimed that MORE, an entity allegedly without any assets, facilities or equipment, will effectively be allowed to own PECO’s entire distribution system if it is allowed to expropriate its assets.

But in an 8-page resolution dated March 28, the CA Special 17th Division granted MORE's plea for a TRO to stop the Mandaluyong court from implementing its halt order.

Associate Justice Elihu Ybañez cited 4 reasons in granting the TRO:

  • PECO's franchise had already expired and another franchise has been granted to MORE
  • Under section 78 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), only the Supreme Court may prevent its implementation, including franchises granted to a distribution utility like MORE
  • The Mandaluyong court's TRO prevents the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) from performing their mandate under the EPIRA Law, which is illegal
  • The Mandaluyong court's TRO has the effect of extending PECO's franchise, an authority vested only in Congress.

CA gave MORE 10 days to pay a bond of P5 million to answer for any damage PECO may suffer.

It also directed PECO to file its comment to MORE's petition before the CA questioning the Mandaluyong court's TRO and explain why the appellate court should not grant a longer writ of preliminary injunction.

With this order, MORE can now move to secure a working permit from the DOE and ERC called a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) and proceed with its operations.

PECO had been operating as Iloilo’s power distributor for 95 years, but its franchise expired on January 18 this year and efforts to extend it in Congress have not prospered.

ABS-CBN's sister company, First Philippine Holdings, is a minority stakeholder in PECO.