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PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – The city government said it will sue the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) for the frequent brownouts in the city.
In a meeting with local residents on Monday, July 17, Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron called for the filing of appropriate charges against the top officials of the local power distributor.
“Kailangang may managot dito (Someone should be held accountable here),” Bayron said in an emergency meeting with city and provincial officials, business sector representatives, and other private individuals.
The planned lawsuit, he added, would compel Paleco to immediately address the problem of “frequent and unannounced power outages” which has affected businesses and even the maintenance of peace and order.
Bayron ordered the City Legal Office to work with the provincial government’s legal office in filing civil and/or administrative charges against Paleco officials.
Bayron said Puerto Princesa residents have reached the “end of line” after experiencing daily brownouts in the city.
“Di na natin matiis ang reklamo ng taumbayan na nakakarating sa ating opisina. Talagang sobra na (We can’t bear anymore the complaints reaching my office. This is too much),” he said.
In May, City Councilor Peter Maristela proposed filing a class suit against Paleco officials, citing a doctrine which grants inherent power and authority to the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf.
Maristela said the city government, through the city legal officer, can represent the people in court. The officer can cite the irresponsibility of independent power producers (IPP) and the power distributor in failing to implement remedial action in response to the mounting complaints of the public.
During the Monday meeting, Bayron said charges would be limited to Paleco officials since the member-consumers have no direct relationship with Paleco’s IPPs.
The meeting also produced a resolution to mount a signature campaign demanding the resignation of Paleco officials should they fail to end the power problem in 15 days. The signatures will be attached to a petition.
Meanwhile, City Councilor Jonjie Rodriguez called for the filing of a petition before the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) for the non-issuance of a certificate of good standing that allows Paleco to enjoy tax exemption.
Rodriguez said the City Council could pass a resolution informing the CDA of Paleco’s inefficient performance.
“Parang lumalabas na napakaganda ang performance nila dito kaya sila binibigyan ng tax exemption when in fact hindi ganoon kagaling ang serbisyong binibigay nila sa atin (It appears that Paleco’s performance here is excellent that’s why they got a tax exemption, when in fact their service isn’t that good),” he said.
Provincial Legal Counsel TJ Mata alleged thatPaleco is accountable for the breakdown of appliances and spike in electric bills suffered by consumers because of frequent brownouts.
“There’s something wrong here. How come they cannot provide us transparency with what’s going on every time there’s an unannounced power outage?” Matta said. “A public utility is a public service; a public trust.”
Arjie Lim of the Puerto Princesa Chamber of Commerce said the brownouts lasting 4 hours or so have caused business operations losses. “We are spending so much just to run our own generators,” Lim, a hotel owner, said.
Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta Jr warned the brownouts have also affected the image of Palawan as a tourist destination, and may deter tourist arrivals.
The power outages, which have plagued the province for years, have left Palaweños dissatisfied with the service of Paleco. Some have tirelessly vented their ire on Paleco’s Facebook page, criticizing the company for its chronic inefficiency.
City Legal Officer Arnel Pedrosa said his office will assist any private individual who wishes to file a case against Paleco officials.
Sought for reaction, Paleco board chair Jeffry Tan-Endriga declined to comment on the threat of a lawsuit by the city government.
“No comment. We will just wait for their complaint if there is. Hopefully, there would be none,” Endriga said in a text message. – Rappler.com