Home Top News Meralco says franchise renewal gains backing

Meralco says franchise renewal gains backing

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MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco) said the support for the renewal of its franchise from various lawmakers affirms its commitment to providing power services.

“The filing of separate bills to renew the legislative franchise of Meralco by veteran and respected lawmakers is a firm validation of the relentless efforts of Meralco to deliver power and serve millions of Filipinos,” Meralco Vice-President and Head of Corporate Communications Joe R. Zaldarriaga said in a statement last week.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda has filed House Bill (HB) No. 9793, which seeks to extend the power distributor’s existing franchise set to expire in 2028.

The bill also aims to expand the scope of the company’s operations, a provision absent in its current franchise under Republic Act No. 9209, signed into law in June 2003.

Other bills seeking to extend Meralco’s franchise are HB No. 9813 filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez and HB No. 10317 by former House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco.

“Granting the franchise renewal would allow Meralco’s growing number of customers to continue enjoying stable and reliable electricity service, which is vital in powering not just households but also industrial and commercial customers that drive the country’s economic progress,” Mr. Zaldarriaga said.

Mr. Zaldarriaga made the statement in response to energy consumer advocacy group People for Power (P4P) coalition questioning what it said was the “rush” to renew Meralco’s franchise.

Gerry C. Arances, convenor of P4P, said that a franchise renewal “will remove the ability of the government to hold them to account and protect consumers.”

“The fact that Meralco is pushing for an early renewal shows that they want to escape any responsibility for any findings that the House of Representatives or any government body might find in an investigation into their practices,” Mr. Arances said.

“Their franchise is still good for a few more years, they’re earning a lot of money, they can wait until consumers have their say,” he added.

He said that Meralco does not “exactly have a clean track record on this end, with consumers repeatedly questioning terms, expensive fossil-based contracts, and other business practices that weigh heavily on our pockets.”

“As a highly-regulated entity, Meralco has always been strictly compliant of the laws and regulations governing its franchise,” Meralco’s Mr. Zaldarriaga said.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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