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Groups decry temporary lifting of suspension order vs 4 ERC execs

/ 01:36 PM February 14, 2018

The Office of the Ombudsman (File photo by NINO JESUS ORBETA / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Groups belonging to the Power for People (P4P) Coalition have expressed dismay over the Court of Appeals’ (CA) issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that lifted the suspension of the four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials earlier found by the Ombudsman of colluding with Meralco on the reported “sweetheart deals.”

“The CA cited ‘grave and irreparable injury’ to the four suspended commissioners as a reason for issuing a TRO in their favor. These ERC Commissioners were found to have colluded with Meralco to ensure their ‘sweetheart deals’ with sister coal generation companies push through. What about the grave and irreparable injury to Meralco’s 19 million customers who will suffer because of the coal-fired power plants they approved?” said Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, convenor of the P4P Coalition.

Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit, and Geronimo Sta. Ana were suspended by the Ombudsman in December after exempting Meralco and other firms from the competitive selection process (CSP), which mandates that all power supply agreements (PSAs) be covered by public bidding.

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READ: Ombudsman suspends all 4 ERC commissioners for one year

Pedrosa, who also filed the case before the Office of the Ombudsman against the commissioners, said lifting the suspension would enable the commissioners to decide in favor of the questionable PSAs.

“This 60-day TRO may cost consumers and citizens at least 20 years of dirtier and costlier energy from coal,” he said.

“If new or interim ERC commissioners are needed to replace the suspended ones, then Malacañang could easily appoint them. Why should those who were suspended because of anomalous activities be allowed to continue serving?” said Cris Palabay, who belongs to Save the Beauty of La Union, a group resisting the efforts of Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (one of the questionable PSAs) to build two 335-MW coal-fired power generating facility in Brgy. Luna, La Union.

“The failure to implement the Ombudsman’s suspension does not speak well of the government’s commitment to protect the environment and combat corruption,” said Vin Buenaagua, Research, Policy and Advocacy Head for the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).

P4P Convenor Erwin Puhawan of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) agreed with the assessment.

Puhawan said Malacañang had ordered ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera to implement the suspension. “And yet, no replacements had been named for the suspended ERC commissioners, thus, enabling the ERC to say that public service will suffer if the suspended commissioners cannot stay. Who else can the consumer trust in protecting their interest?”

“By lifting the suspension, the CA, in effect, upheld the faulty contracts these commissioners had approved against public interest. They were suspended precisely because their actions had exposed consumers to high electricity prices and the negative environmental and health impacts of these coal plants. This is a horrible miscarriage of justice,” said Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. /jpv

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TAGS: Court of Appeals, Energy Regulatory Commission, news, power for people coalition, ‎protest, suspension, temporary restraining order
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