“During the Congress hearings of House Resolution 566 that we filed, it was revealed that the ERC bent their own rules just to accommodate the Meralco-affiliated power generation companies.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Seven power supply agreements that are feared to be highly disadvantageous to Filipino consumers may have already been approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
To dispel fears that the ERC is embroiled anew in big-time midnight ‘sweetheart’ deals with Meralco, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called for transparency from the ERC. Rep. Zarate issued the warning about the sweetheart contracts after his office received reports from informed sources that the ERC has already approved new power supply agreements.
The way to the signing of the latest power supply agreements has been reportedly paved with questionable actions from the ERC. Following the fiasco of 2013 when an unprecedented power rate hike exposed a collusion in inking power supply agreements, consumers opposed the next steps that followed from the ERC that could repeat the same fiasco.
Bayan Muna led consumers in opposing the government’s demanded emergency powers to supposedly lick their “contrived power shortage projection”. Next, it continued demanding the release of the final report on the investigation of the 2013 alleged collusion between Meralco, power generation companies and ERC.
In September last year, the Ombudsman suspended four ERC commissioners. The consumers’ group and the complainant, Alyansa para sa Bagong Pilipinas, welcomed the Ombudsman’s decision. It said the ERC’s violations of the law are clear and that the decision is a giant step toward reforming the ERC “which has been a captive of the oligarchs at grave injustice to our electric consumers.”
ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Josefina Asirit, Gloria Yap-Taruc and Geronimo Sta. Ana allowed the late filing of questionable power supply agreements (PSAs). It delayed the conduct of competitive bidding in securing power supply agreements (PSAs). Hence, the warning aired now by Bayan Muna and the worries of consumer groups that the current PSAs to be signed, or perhaps already signed, by the ERC and their chosen suppliers, are likely anomalous again.
The four commissioners have so far thwarted the implementation of their one-year suspension.
Their suspension without pay should have lasted a year, but they got a restraining order from the Court of Appeals last February. Last week, before the temporary restraining order expired, they got a preliminary injunction on the suspension, again from the Court of Appeals.
The consumer group ABP slammed not only the Court of Appeals’ injunction but also the threat to consumers because these commissioners remained empowered to make deals. In a statement April 20, Aya Jallorina, ABP spokesperson, warned of the serious consequences for the country and the consumers if the four (4) Commissioners found guilty remained “untouchables” in the ERC as they would be affecting the records of the seven midnight applications.
Meralco has up to forty million consumers in their franchise area and they will pay dearly. Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate said, “The ERC is now just waiting for a wicked timing to spring it on our hapless consumers.”
The ERC is now led by Chairwoman Agnes Devanadera.
ERC’s record in deal-making
“During the congressional hearings of House Resolution 566 that we filed, it was revealed that the ERC bent their own rules just to accommodate the Meralco-affiliated power generation companies,” Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate said about the ERC commissioners.
Although the House of Representatives has yet to adopt a committee report on the hearings conducted, Rep. Zarate said it is imperative that these anti-people deals be junked now.
He said the deals on the table for the commissioners would tie consumers to paying P2 trillion for more than 20 years. An approval of this gravely anomalous and anti-consumer deals will not be taken sitting down by the already over-burdened people, Rep. Zarate warned. He said that it would be a tremendous burden on consumers as it would further increase the price of electricity.