Consumers petition CA for SMC-ERC case intervention
MANILA, Philippines — A consortium of several organizations, including consumers and people’s rights groups, filed a motion for intervention before the Court of Appeals (CA) on Monday in the case filed by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) against the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
The ERC previously junked SMC’s petition to charge consumers for its losses from the straight-price 2019 power supply agreements (PSA) SMC has with Meralco, which then resulted in SMC filing a petition against ERC before the CA, stressing that the agency does not have jurisdiction over the case, and demanding the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against ERC to reverse its decision.
The Power for People Coalition (P4P) — a consortium of consumer rights, peoples’ rights groups, and civil societies — in a motion for intervention dated Feb. 27, argued that consumers must participate and intervene in the said case as it deals with issues of fixed pricing and consumer consultation.
“Pakinggan ang nagbabayad, hindi ang kumikita. Ang nag-uusap lang dito ay ang pamahalaan, ang nagbebenta ng kuryente, at ang nag-susuplay ng kuryente. Parang taya sa isang kainan ang konsyumer na di nila kaya pigilin ang mga kumakain kung ano pwedeng kunin,” said Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino chair Leody de Guzman in a statement.
(Listen to the consumer, not the earner. The only people talking here are the government, the electricity seller, and the electricity supplier. The consumers are in a restaurant where they can’t pick what to eat.)
“Hindi tama ito, at kaya dumudulog kami sa CA para baguhin ang ganitong sitwasyon,” he added.
(I’m afraid that’s wrong, so we are approaching CA to change this situation.)
According to the P4P, the PSAs concerned revolve around fixed prices, which means that the SMC also absorbs the risk of changes in fuel prices — instead of consumers.
The fixed price PSA, said the P4P, is credited for the lower electricity prices in the Meralco franchise area compared to those in areas not protected by it.
Meanwhile, BMP president and P4P legal counsel Luke Espiritu explained that the petition would address one of the greatest shortcomings of the Electrical Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA.
“EPIRA did not provide a mechanism for consumer consultation. At the very least, we hope the CA will allow consumers to be heard, as this case is not about any simple contract. PSAs are contracts imbued with the public interest, with a direct impact on everyone, as everyone consumes electricity,” said Espiritu.
He then stressed that the case pending before the CA would have serious repercussions requiring all stakeholders to be heard to ensure the fairest decision possible.