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ERC faces paralysis with execs’ suspension

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair Agnes T. Devanadera on Friday appealed to President Duterte for guidance as Malacañang said it was studying whether the four commissioners suspended by the Ombudsman for an entire year could legally be replaced.

Devanadera, who was appointed to the agency after the acts that led to the suspension, said the suspended officials could still perform “some functions” until the President issues an order.

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But some P1.6 trillion worth of business is pending at the ERC and they affect not only big business “but also Juan de la Cruz,” referring to electricity consumers.

“I have sent a letter to [Malacañang] explaining the impact of the Ombudsman’s decision,” said Devanadera, who was solicitor general during the Arroyo administration.

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Palace lawyers are already studying how best to deal with the matter, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

“I think the office of Executive Secretary [Salvador] Medialdea [will] study the basis for their suspension,” Roque said.

“[They] will see if this is enough reason for [the four commissioners] to be removed so that they can be replaced and the work of the ERC need not be stopped,” he added.

The Ombudsman suspended Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpala-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana for favoring the Manila Electric Company.

The Ombudsman also found enough basis to charge them with corruption for causing undue injury to the government and giving unwarranted benefits to private parties.

Roque said the Palace was aware that waiting out the suspension for an entire year would mean the ERC would be unable to decide on important policy matters.

“I think [the option to replace] is the option that would be exercised because the government cannot wait for one year with the ERC not coming out with any decisions,” Roque said.

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In her letter, Devanadera said “the debilitating impact of the Ombudsman’s decision to suspend the four incumbent ERC commissioners will render the operations of the agency in severe paralysis.”

“As a collegial body, the presence of at least three members of the Commission is needed to constitute a quorum,” she added.

“The Ombudsman’s decision to suspend the four ERC commissioners will have a substantial impact for the whole country and presents a dangerous regulatory risk that will severely affect the economic and financial environment of the country,” she said.

“The energy sector has a very significant participation in [the] Build, Build, Build campaign,” Devanadera said, adding there are 162 petitions for approval of power supply agreements pending at the agency.

Of these, 132 cases involve electric cooperatives and 30 involve private distribution utilities, she said.

“This P1.588 trillion—not just millions, but trillions—include investments from both local and foreign entities,” she said. “Without ERC action, the projects cannot proceed. The investors may get discouraged.”

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TAGS: Energy Regulatory Commission, MERALCO, Ombudsman, Philippine news updates, President Duterte
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