SC resolves Panay ‘power struggle’

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MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of More Electric and Power Corp.’s takeover of power distribution facilities in Iloilo City from previous long-time power distributor Panay Electric Co. (Peco).

The tribunal voted 8-6 on Tuesday to uphold the legality of two key provisions in the 25-year power distribution franchise granted to port magnate Enrique Razon’s firm in February last year, overturning the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court’s ruling on July 1, 2019 that the expropriation was illegal.

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The provisions allowed More to exercise the power of eminent domain and take over the existing distribution system facilities subject to expropriation proceedings after Peco’s franchise expired in January 2019.

But Peco questioned the franchise granted to More because it did not have the facilities for power distribution and was only hoping to distribute power by expropriating Peco’s assets.

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Lower court ruling

Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio of Branch 209 agreed and ruled earlier that Peco had no obligation to sell and More had no right to expropriate Peco’s assets under Sections 10 and 17 of its franchise, or Republic Act No. 11212.

More went to the Supreme Court to appeal the ruling of the Mandaluyong court and secured a temporary restraining order in December 2019 that allowed an Iloilo court to approve More’s takeover of Peco’s assets starting February this year.

Provisional authority

The following month, the certificate of public convenience and necessity issued to Peco by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) was effectively revoked when the ERC granted a provisional authority to More.

“In granting the petitions, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City Branch 209, and declared Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act 11212 constitutional,” the Supreme Court said on Wednesday through its public information office.

However, the actual resolution was not released, but the information office said the decision was penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who will mandatorily retire on Friday.

The seven magistrates who joined him were Chief Justice Diosdao Peralta and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Benjamin Caguioa, Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Hernando, Rosmari Carandang and Edgardo Delos Santos.

The Supreme Court said Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Amy Lazaro-Javier, Henri Inting, Rodil Zalameda, Mario Lopez and Samuel Gaerlan dissented, while Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla did not take part in the decision.

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