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Hope seen for consumers to set power rates

/ 07:16 AM December 02, 2018

A consumer advocacy group welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to allow the group to question at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) several power supply agreements (PSAs) entered into by the country’s leading power distributor with companies believed to have links with it.

In a statement, Romeo Junia, who filed the petition at the CA seeking a reconsideration of an earlier ruling favoring Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), said the new CA decision was partial victory for consumers.

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Costly

The original petition filed by Junia, one of the leaders of the group Power for People (P4P) Coalition, questioned the approval by the ERC of seven PSAs, which Junia said were midnight deals because they had been filed after deadline.

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The PSAs also set rates, which were above market prices, Junia said.

Junia’s petition had been denied by the CA last February but, after a review of the facts of the case, decided to grant Junia’s motion for reconsideration in a resolution dated Nov. 15.

“I consider this a breakthrough,” said Junia in the statement.

In the two-page resolution, the former chair of the CA’s Third Division, Justice Rosmari Carandang, now Supreme Court justice, said the court agrees “that the public be provided an opportunity to determine” the “best way, least cost energy in the PSAs.”

Role in rates

The other division members — Justices Elihu Ybañez and Pedro Corales — concurred with the ruling.

Junia said the ruling gave P4P “the opportunity to make our case” against the PSAs.

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He said he hoped the courts would continue to serve “as check or oversight for the shortcomings of the regulators.”

The latest CA ruling, he said, “affirms and highlights consumer rights in rate determination.”

“Ironically, the ERC, which is supposed to balance if not safeguard consumer interest is the one that denies consumers the right to participate in rate setting,” Junia added.

Meralco, through Meralco Power Generation Co. (MGen), has substantial shares in at least five of the companies owning the seven power plants, with which it has PSAs, said Junia.

The biggest of these power plants, which has a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, was 100 percent owned by MGen, he added. —Jerome Aning

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TAGS: Energy Regulatory Commission, ERC, MERALCO, power rates, Romeo Junia
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