Piqued by the Palawan Electric Cooperative’s (PALECO) “continuous poor power performance and failure to provide quality service to the public”, the city government on Monday filed a P1 million civil suit against the power cooperative.
Mayor Lucilo Bayron led the filing of the complaint for mandatory injunction to compel PALECO and the members of its board of directors (BOD) to take action in addressing the problem.
“Inabot na talaga tayo noong hangganan ng pasensya. Kaya tayo umabot sa ganoon kasi wala tayong nakikitang move ng PALECO na maayos ‘yong problema. Nagsimula ito 2009, pa-brownout-brownout… dumating pa sa punto na nagsalita si Presidente (Rodrigo) Duterte na ‘shape up or ship out’ noong Subaraw Festival ng November 2018, pero wala lalo pa ngang grumabe,” Bayron said in a press conference at the City Hall following the filing of the civil suit.
The complaint included a signed petition of over 2,000 residents of the city. It was received by the clerk of court, Atty. Jyl C. Lauros-Padrones, at the Palawan RTC in Brgy. Sta. Monica.
Bayron said the city government has been receiving numerous complaints from residents of Puerto Princesa City, especially the tourism and business sectors that are at the receiving end of the power problem.
“‘Yong mga kababayan natin, sige rin ang kareklamo sa atin kaya lang wala din kami talagang magagawa tungkol dyan maliban ‘yong gisingin ‘yong PALECO officers. So, ‘yon ‘yong nakita naming paraan na gisingin sila, file-an sila ng injunction, tapos damages, kasama ‘yong application for preliminary mandatory injunction. Malaki ang nawawala sa city government, sa lahat ng establishments, sa buong economy ng Puerto Princesa affected masyado. Siguro kung ililista natin lahat ang mga nawawala sa atin dahil sa mga unannounced brownouts na ‘yan, eh, maghahalaga ng milyon, milyon, milyon talaga,” Bayron said.
Bayron said the city government also undertook a signature campaign from June 22-23 to support the move to sue PALECO.
“Gustong-gusto nilang pumirma dahil nagagalit na rin sila sa sitwasyon dito sa brownout na ito at sa power outages natin,” he said.
City administrator and legal counsel Atty. Arnel Pedrosa explained that the city government filed the civil case against PALECO to oblige it to provide a solution to the situation because the consumers have the right to receive continuous and uninterrupted power service.
“That is to compel PALECO and its members of the board to perform, to take action, to address the problem and resolve it… kailangan talagang i-reklamo sila para mapuwersa sila na i-perform ‘yong kanilang trabaho. Ang mga consumers kasi, kasama na doon ang lungsod ng Puerto Princesa, the city government at ‘yong kanyang mamamayan, ay mayroong karapatan na magkaroon ng continuous, uninterrupted, and adequate share of a steady supply of electricity,” Pedrosa said.
Pedrosa said that as a “distributor”, PALECO is unable to meet the demands of the public when it comes to better power services.
Pedrosa invited the public to bring to the city government their appliances that had been destroyed by the power outages to the city government for the court to determine their amount.
“Iniimbitahan ko rin ‘yong mga mamamayan ng lungsod, kung meron silang mga gamit na nasira ay puwede nilang dalhin dito sa amin at puwede rin naman silang mag-intervene in their own capacity kung nais din naman nila. Ang siguradong figure lang na nailagay namin ay P1 million. Usually kasi ang court ay hindi masyadong nag-a-award ng mas malaki pa sa P500,000 kaya ‘yon lang muna ang hiningi namin,” he said.
However, he said that the city government is also asking for “exemplary damages” which will be determined by the court.
No more dialogue with PALECO
Pedrosa said that the city government will no longer entertain any meeting or discussion with the PALECO because they have to do it in court.
“We already filed the case, sagutin na lang nila ‘yong kaso. Doon na lang natin pag-usapan sa court,” Pedrosa said.
Bayron said that if there is any venue where the city government and the PALECO can talk about the problem next, it would have to be in the court.
“Sa korte na sila magpapaliwanag talaga,” he said.
Bayron added that enough time had already been given to talks between PALECO and the city government to resolve the matter, but nothing has happened since 10 years ago.
Councilor Jimmy Carbonell, in a separate interview, said the City Council is supporting the filing of the civil suit.
“Bilang chairman of the committee on energy and public utilities, ay talagang banas na banas na rin ako. Katulad ng sinasabi ni mayor, since 2009 ay pinag-uusapan na ‘yan kung anong mga remedyo ngunit pabalik-balik na lang ‘yong mga rason na sinasabi nila. Tama na ang patawag at pag-uusap, sa korte na tayo mag-usap,” he said.
Incoming city Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates said that the problem with PALECO is that their explanations have become repetitive every time they are called to attend the Question Hour of the City Council.
She reiterated that the problem has been going on for years and the disappointing realization is that no solution has been identified.
“Actually nakakainis, kasi it is the same story over and over again. Tuwing ipinapatawag, lumalabas na hindi problema ang supply kasi nag-o-over supply. Ang nagiging problema is sa transmission and sa distribution… but this has been going on for many many years, so nakakainis kung bakit hindi pa rin naso-solusyonan… tapos ‘yong mga rason na although siguro totoo nga pero nakakatawa ‘yong mga butiki, mga tuko, so it is really becoming very annoying, so parang it is useless nan a ipatawag pa [sila] ulit,”she said.
Private power players welcome
Bayron said that he will welcome any private investor as the new power distributor for Puerto Princesa City.
“Oo, kahit sino welcome kasi ganito na nga ang sitwasyon natin. Kung hihintayin natin ang PALECO mukhang… mula 2009 ilang taon na ‘yon walang nangyayari. Welcome kung may gustong pumasok na bago, kaya lang ‘yong distribution ‘yon ang sinasabi nila franchise daw nila ‘yon, so… ang franchise doon gina-grant ‘yan sa Congress at doon din kina-cancel. Siguro kung meron tayong bagong distributor na puwedeng bigyan ng franchise, ire-rekomenda natin tapos i-cancel na itong PALECO,” he said.
Bayron said that he is also encouraging the private and business sectors in the city to sue PALECO.
“Ito sa tingin ko [ang isinampa naming kaso] ‘yong nabuksan [na] ‘yong flood gates kung tumakbo ang case na ito. Marami ang nakikiramdam, kapag tumakbo ‘yan marami ang susunod na magfa-file. Alam ko ‘yong business sector masyadong apektado dito sa brownouts na ito kaya nagngingitngit na rin talaga sila. ‘Pag tumakbo itong ifinile nating case na ito, palagay ko maraming susunod na magfa-file pa,”he also said.
Named as defendants in the case were the PALECO Board of Directors and their chairman, who were “grossly negligent as they failed and continuously fail to take tangible, necessary, and intermediate steps to remedy the situation.”
No response from PALECO
When sought for comments, PALECO board chairman Jeffrey Tan-Endriga, chairman of the PALECO board, said that he will not issue any statement yet until they get a copy of the complaint.
“No comment for now. We’ll wait for the official complaint,” Endriga said to Palawan News in a text message.
Meanwhile, power watchdog Bantay PALECO founder Homer Capinig said also in a separate interview that he is satisfied with the recent move by the city government.
He said that it is about time the city government listens to the public that has been suffering due to the constant power outages.
“Actually, opo, natutuwa ako. Natutuwa ako kasi may nangyaring ganoon na matagal na panahon na dapat natuunan ng pansin. Nakakatuwa ang ating city government kasi inaksyonan nila. Ang plano ko, makikipag-usap ako siguro muna sa city legal kung anong maitutulong ko. Kung may maitutulong tayo, i-provide natin,” he added.
City information officer Richard Ligad also added during the press conference that they will be continuing their signature campaign against PALECO to reach a target of around 20,000.
“Tuloy-tuloy itong kampanya natin sa pagpapapirma. Sa two days lang meron na tayong na-gather na 2,000 plus na signature at marami pang gustong humabol para maka-pirma,” he said.