FAST BACKWARD: Postwar electric light franchises

Excluding Davao Light and Power Company, Inc. (DLPC), a pre-Commonwealth enterprise, all the other franchises issued by Congress to allow the operation of an electric light, heat and power system anywhere in Davao region were issued after World War II.

Early in the postwar period, to get a municipal franchise to operate an electric light, heat and power system, the interested party must first get the accord of the municipal council through a resolution that required a concurrence of the provincial legislative board. Romulo V. Ramos, presumably a resident of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur, went through the process before he got a legislative franchise in 1952 under Republic Act (RA) 788.

The rash to get a congressional franchise to open commercial power lines in towns is a postwar trend. Most of those who were eventually granted legislative license with an authority issued by the Public Service Commission (PSC) commenced operating high-powered generators for distribution of power to a few hundred residential households.

In the May 8, 1952, edition of the Senate Congressional Record, three of the legislative initiatives submitted to the Committee on Banks, Corporations and Franchises chaired by Sen. Lorenzo M. Tañada, were from Davao, namely: House Bill (HB) 1899 was a proposed franchise of Miguel de Castro for an electric light, heat and power system in Miral (now Bansalan, Davao del Sur); HB 1929, a franchise for Benigno Dalugdug to handle a similar project in Malita, Davao Occidental; and HB 1944, a license for Mrs. Rebecca Torres to operate in Padada, Davao del Sur.

Between 1951 and 1969, roughly a dozen franchises for Davao region were enacted into law. On May 15, 1951, RA 619 was approved; it granted to the Lumanlan Brothers Company a 25-year license ‘the right, privilege and authority to construct, maintain and operate an electric light, heat and power system’ in Panabo City.

On June 12, 1954, two franchises were issued, namely: RA 1016, granting a license to Andres Caballero to run an electric light, heat and power system in the municipality of Pantukan, Davao de Oro, and RA 1017, in favor of Alfredo L. Noel, in the town of Compostela, Davao de Oro.

A year later, on June 18, 1955, Congress passed RA 1351, granting a power supply license to Monkayo Electric Com¬pany, in the town of Monkayo, Davao de Oro. Four years later, another legislative franchise was issued to the municipality of Nabunturan, Davao de Oro, under RA 2328, approved on June 19, 1959.

On June 15, 1954, under RA 1112, a franchise for an electric light, heat and power system in the town of Lupon, Davao Oriental was issued to Mariano Nasser. Three years later, on June 22, 1957, a congressional license was issued to the municipal government of Samal ‘to construct, operate and maintain an electric light, heat and power system.’ On June 19, 1959, by virtue of RA 2322, the municipality of Babak (now part of Samal city) also got a congressional permit.

On June 18, 1961, under RA 3402, which was enacted without executive approval, another franchise was granted to Jose S. Magallanes; it was a 50-year license in the town of Tagum. This was repealed by RA 3402, signed into law on June 20, 1964, with the Tagum Electric Company, Inc. (TAGELCO), owned by the Ebro family of Davao City, as recipient. And, on June 21, 1969, under RA 5684, another congressional franchise was enacted, this time in favor of Mati Light and Power, Inc., in Davao Oriental; it lapsed into law without executive approval.

On the part of DLPC, its franchise was extended on September 7, 2000, by virtue of RA 8960, and later given another extension on December 26, 2020, under RA 11515, which President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law. Its bid to expand its coverage in Davao del Norte, however, was vetoed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on June 27, 2022.

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