ERC slammed for ‘double standard’ in PSA debacle
Bayan Muna Party-List Representative Carlos Zarate has castigated the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for imposing what it called a “double standard” between the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and consumers groups who want to oppose questionable energy deals.
“Hindi natin masisisi na isipin ng mga tao na may double standard sa ERC dahil napaka-strict nila sa rules sa consumer groups (We can’t blame the people for thinking that ERC imposes a double standard since they’re very strict with the rules when it comes to consumer groups),” Zarate said Monday during the joint hearing between the House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability and Energy.
Monday’s inquiry was the last regarding the seven controversial power supply agreements (PSAs) that Meralco-affiliated generation companies (gencos) are applying for before the ERC.
Zarate’s House Resolution (HR) No.566, which was among the resolutions tackled during the course of the joint hearings, referred to the PSAs as “sweetheart deals” between Meralco and the ERC since these were accepted after the 5 p.m. April 29, 2016 filing deadline had lapsed.
“Kaya hindi nila maintindihan na napaka-strikto natin doon sa rules regarding intervention (That’s why the consumer groups can’t understand why we’re so strict with the rules regarding intervention) … there are instances when these things are accommodated,” the Makabayan lawmaker said.
“They should first implement the rules,” Zarate said of the ERC.
He added in Filipino: “They kept on extending the deadline, they said as long as you’re inside the office by 5 p.m., you’re still accommodated.”
PSAs at ERC include deals on the construction of coal-fired power plants with the following entities: Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (for a 225-megawatt [MW] plant); Atimonan One Energy Inc. (1,200 MW); St. Raphael Power Generation Corp. (400 MW); Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp. (528 MW); Mariveles Power Generation Corp. (528 MW); Panay Energy Development Corp. (70 MW); and Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (600 MW).
Two frustrated intervenors, those who oppose such deals — consumer advocates Romeo Junia and Uriel Borja — attended the House proceedings Monday to vent on ERC’s alleged unfair treatment.
“Despite the fact that their (gencos) applications were filed 5:30 p.m. onwards, and the other four cases that have no number obviously, can’t be filed earlier because Redondo, the lowest numbered case was filed 5:30 in the afternoon. The others have higher numbers. Obviously there were [those filed] after 5:30 p.m,” said Junia, a representative of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) and Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC).
The ERC earlier denied the petitions of Junia and Borja to become intervenors on the PSAs after they belatedly filed their motions for intervention. The filing period is five days prior to the initial hearing of the case.
“If you can recall Mr. Chairman in an earlier hearing, the ERC resource person even admitted that they stayed open until 11 p.m. or close to midnight just to receive the applications. You should have had a competitive selection process (CSP) beforehand because that’s what the rules said. Any application after5 p.m. of April 29 will not be received without the CSP,” Junia further said.
Meanwhile, Borja rued the mounting legal expenses in challenging such power deals. He said Meralco did not have this problem as it passes these on to their consumers.”
“We have to hire lawyers and it costs us hundreds of thousands of pesos per case. And certain cases have already cost us millions of pesos,” lamented Borja.
Zarate, in filing HR No. 566, has claimed that consumers could lose up to P12.44 billion annually if all seven PSAs are given the green light.
Suarez defends ERC
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, however, defended ERC, saying it actually deserves credit for accommodating and processing as many power deals as it can.
“I think we should even give credit to the ERC for working late hours. Did they file for overtime? They did not,” Suarez said, adding that the power regulator doesn’t have enough staff members and has poor facilities.
Suarez filed HR No.1161, which was also tackled by the joint inquiry. It sought an investigation in aid of legislation of the immediate approval of the seven subject PSAs by the ERC.
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