Having the right kind of information, who you are working with, as well as seeing how things work is usually what we need in order to make the right decisions. These are also what we need in order to decide who or what to support. And this is exactly what Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Hon. Francisco Benitez, more popularly known as Congressman Kiko Benitez, did. He visited MORE Power in Iloilo City, learned more about their technologies, and how they operate, so that he could push for House Bill 9310. This bill pushes for the franchise of Negros Electric and Power Corp (NEPC), a sister company of MORE Power
Congressman Kiko Benitez Learns More About MORE Power
The good congressman did not leave any stone unturned. He toured the various vital installations and offices of MORE Power, which include the modern substations, control center, and customer care department.
Cong. Benitez wanted to personally see how MORE Power handles its day-to-day operations, servicing thousands of consumers in Iloilo City. After all, this electric distribution utility is a huge contributor to Iloilo’s success as a techno-hub in the Region.
Benitez is one of the authors of House Bill 9310, which pushes for a franchise of the Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC), a sister company of MORE Power. NEPC will engage in a Joint Venture Agreement with the Central Negros Electric Cooperative or CENECO after it was approved by the majority of the consumers through a plebiscite.
“So, makita man namon nga through sa ila systema dire mapapanaug man nila biskan papaano guro ang amon kuryente sa Negros. Amo man na ang amon ginahulat kag ginahandum nga ti dugay-dugay na gid which is the reason why we file sang franchise para sa ila,” says Cong. Benitez. (“We saw that their system of management and operations can bring down the cost of electricity in Negros. This is what we had been hoping for a long time now, which is why we filed for the franchise.”)
Why the NEED for a JVA
Among the many pressing concerns of the power consumers in Central Negros include decades-old infrastructure and substations, frequent, prolonged, and unannounced power interruptions, and poor customer service.
Even with the availability of modern technologies and cheaper renewable energy sources, CENECO continues with its bad service and very high rates.
CENECO’s outdated system prompted consumers to favor the proposed JVA, which is why the franchise is backed by the approval of the majority of its consumers during the referendum.
Opposition to the JVA
According to Cong. Benitez, the JVA did not push through easily, as it had its share of opposition, especially in Bacolod City.
“I think part of that objection is really from CENECO employees who rightly felt indi sila sure sa matabu sa (uncertainty with what’s going to happen to) CENECO moving forward. It’s that insecurity on their part, which was the basis of their objections every time you try to privatize in any capacity,” the lawmaker said.
He added, “The rolling brownouts and the unpredictability of power outages in Negros affect our economic growth and industries. We are trying to expand into more BPOs into more digital services and so on, and all of that requires consistent power.”
Impressed with MORE Power – Its Facilities and Its People
Benitez lauds the efficiency and reliability of MORE Power regarding power distribution and customer service. He was totally impressed with the presentation of MORE Power and NEPC President Mr. Roel Castro, which highlighted the company’s upgrading and upsizing of infrastructure as well as human resources in order to cater to the needs of electric consumers.
Mr. Castro believes that the JVA is meant for the consumers in Central Negros.
“They wanted it also, but they are also having financial difficulties. They could not come up with the facilities that are needed, they don’t have the cash, they don’t have the money to do the capital expenditures, and their systems loss is beyond the cap, which is a symptom that service is (caused by lack of) infrastructure. I mean, in terms of electric service, not only in service but in terms of energy demand. If it would take longer pa, baka, it would worsen pa. This is really for the consumers,” says Castro.
The Congress is in recess but is set to resume this November. Congressman Kiko Benitez hopes that House Bill 9310 gets Congress’ approval in the first quarter of 2024.