Rome wasn’t built in a day—neither was it built alone.
In a way, this is what the most recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among Meralco, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) is all about. By pledging to work together for the public good and institutionalizing their work process, these entities hope to resolve common public concerns that affect Meralco’s services, and ultimately, its customers:
- Illegal connections which include services of some government and public structures
- Delay in the issuance of permits that affect our access to uninterrupted and reliable electricity.
- Slow relocation of poles that need to be transferred because of government infrastructure projects
Behind all these are a complicated knot of issues, from leadership changes, coordination among these entities and even with other government agencies, to legal or right-of-way issues and other sensitivities.
The MOU aims to unravel most of these knots and hope, get the electricity flowing and the lights on, faster.
But how does this MOU affect you? Why should you care?
Well, for starters, it’ll help Meralco double down on the illegal connections and intensify the energization of government or public structures. Aside from being potential fire hazards, these illegal connections encourage illegal activities, and undermines the government’s strong thrust to stop criminality.
Meralco needs strong government support to act on these issues, as the law states that the utility company needs to catch these thieves red-handed, with police personnel present during the apprehension. With the help of DILG, together with PNP and BFP, Meralco can now implement more initiatives to apprehend both: those who allow illegal connections to their own meters, as well as those who by-pass the meters by connecting straight to the power line.
The MOU therefore minimizes not just the risk of fires, but also system loss, which affects our electricity rates.
You can also expect DILG to push for a more efficient processing of the CFEI, which, more often than not, is a cause of delay in the energization of electric services. The partnership with DILG will encourage LGUs to grant these permits faster with fees that are more consistent across the board.
We often hear complaints about Meralco poles not being relocated as roads are widened, with social media pictures of poles left in the middle. But there are times when Meralco is literally caught in the middle, with its trucks and teams ready to relocate those poles but are prevented from doing so because of delays in the permits or right-of-way issuance.
Moving forward, the DILG will assist to ensure the swift issuance of permits and help secure rights-of-way from concerned LGUs to prioritize the relocation of Meralco’s electric poles that are in the path of urgent government infrastructure, road widening, and real estate development projects. The parties will also try to address recurring issues relating to permits, taking into account the Ease of Doing Business Law (EODB Act), which aims to streamline the current systems and procedures of government services.
Despite differences in policies and operations, there’s no reason that the private and public sector can’t work together for the common good. Through this new partnership, Meralco is determined to tackle the concerns of its customers and the general public head-on, by working closely with relevant agencies from the public sector.
What’s significant is that the MOU puts on paper the agreement, so that even with changes in leadership in any of the entities, we can expect that the coordination continues for expedient public service.
To further strengthen the collaboration between the agencies, Meralco assigned specific people to lead the coordination: Atty. Oscar P. Moreno, Jr. and Engr. Sante C. Buella. The LGUs as well as other relevant government agencies can count on them for immediate response to concerns such as fires, emergencies, and power outages. Likewise, each entity provided their responsible counterpart officers.
No idle hands here
This isn’t just an initiative that looks good on paper. Meralco and the above-mentioned government agencies have identified four pillars that the MOU will focus on, namely: public order and safety, regulatory compliance and legal matters, strategic operations and communications, and corporate social responsibility.
Each of these pillars is designed to have a dedicated committee and technical working groups, which members of DILG, PNP, and BFP will be part of together with Meralco. The goal of each committee is to pass a set of guidelines that will be used to implement key programs that are in the interest of the public.
To ensure that the MOU is implemented in an organized and systematic manner, with efforts between parties properly converged and operationalized, an Executive Committee (EXECOM), co-chaired by both Meralco and DILG, has been formed.
It is composed of members from both the private and public sectors, including DILG Undersecretary for Public Safety Nestor F. Quinsay, Jr. who serves as co-chair, PNP Director for Operations Major General Alfred Corpus, and BFP Chief Director Jose S. Embang, Jr. Helping lead and execute the EXECOM on Meralco’s side are Atty. Oscar P. Moreno, Jr. and Engr. Sante C. Buella who serve as co-chair and member respectively.
The MOU was signed on December 21, 2020 by Meralco’s Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. William S. Pamintuan, and Chief Commercial Officer, Engr. Ferdinand O. Geluz as well as DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año, PNP Chief Debold M. Sinas, and BFP Chief Jose S. Embang, Jr.