Panay Electric secures TRO against billionaire Razon's MORE

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2019 04:55 PM

MANILA -- A Mandaluyong City court on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order, preventing a power firm owned by billionaire Enrique Razon from taking over assets of Iloilo power distributor Panay Electric Co.

The court said PECO established that two provisions of MORE Electric Power Corp's franchise "will materially and substantially invade its rights to equal protection under the law, due process, and against unlawful taking of property."

Razon's MORE "can easily take away, under the guise of eminent domain, petitioner PECO’s distribution assets" if sections 10 and 17 of the franchise, or Republic Act 11212 are invoked.

MORE holds a franchise to operate in Iloilo while PECO's franchise expired last Jan. 18 after serving the area for 95 years.

Razon, in a rare press statement in November last year, said Iloilo folk had "suffered" from PECO, accusing the power firm of overcharging, erroneous meter readings and power interruptions.

"We are exactly the opposite of PECO because we have a track record of success in start-ups and large-scale projects not only in the Philippines but globally," the port and casino magnate said.

PECO had challenged certain provisions of 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.

Section 10 and 17 of the law allows MORE to expropriate PECO’s private assets, including poles, wires, cables, transformers, switching equipment, stations and buildings, machinery and equipment.

Section 10 also allows MORE to immediately possess and operate PECO’s assets upon the filing of a petition for expropriation in court and depositing in a bank the full amount of the assessed value of PECO’s properties.

The court said that when it was hearing PECO’s TRO application on Monday, MORE also filed a complaint for expropriation against PECO before a court in Iloilo City.

It also stopped the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a certificate of public convenience and necessity to MORE or suspend such documents if these have been issued while the case is still pending.

A CPCN is a working permit required before a public utility can operate.

The TRO will take effect within 5 days from PECO’s posting of a P5-million bond and will last for 20 days.

The court set the hearing for PECO’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction on April 2.

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