Militants join call for Aboitiz firm to pay P235M fine
Militant lawmakers on Thursday joined the Philippine Electricity Market Corp.’s (PEMC) bid to compel an Aboitiz Power Corp. subsidiary to pay P234.9 million in fines for its role in the record P4.16-kilowatt per hour power hike in December 2013, an offshoot of the monthlong shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facilities that year.
In an intervention filed on Thursday, Bayan Muna party-list members Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate asked the Court of Appeals to overturn the Pasig Regional Trial Court’s resolution granting Therma Mobile Inc. (TMO) a writ of preliminary injunction stopping PEMC from imposing fines for the 2013 power hike.
PEMC, a government-created corporation where private sector representatives sit as members, runs the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the country’s power trading floor.
The petition was in support of an earlier plea that PEMC filed before the appellate court to block the enforcement of the Pasig court’s ruling in favor of TMO.
“Our message here is that consumers are watching over power rates, so do not try to do what you did during the last Malampaya shutdown,” Colmenares said in an interview shortly after filing the petition on Thursday.
“Essentially, TMO withheld supply, so supply was lower and the price increased. If you are guilty of artificially increasing the price, you should be sanctioned. Otherwise, that will be done again and again,” he said.
The PEMC last February sanctioned TMO with a P234.9-million fine for withholding capacity during the 2013 Malampaya shutdown.
Last month, the Pasig court stopped the PEMC from imposing the fine on TMO, granting the latter’s petition anchored on its claim that its rated capacity at the time “could safely, reliably and consistently deliver” its required output of 100 megawatts.
When the Malampaya pipeline went on a one-month maintenance shutdown in 2013, natural gas-using plants that supplied the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) with power had to shift to more expensive fuel to keep on generating power, prompting Meralco to charge consumers P4.16 more per kilowatt hour.
Acting on petitions from several lawmakers, the Supreme Court stopped the power rate hike on the same month it was to be imposed. The temporary restraining order was later extended indefinitely.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) separately found that the WESM prices during the Malampaya shutdown should have been 70 percent lower.
“Clearly, both the Supreme Court and the ERC found the unprecedented rate hike highly irregular… [T]here is sufficient basis for saying that there is prima facie evidence of collusion and anticompetitive behavior among power players, including respondent (TMO),” read the Bayan Muna petition.
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