Energy industry stakeholders pushed for an early resolution of the power vacuum at the Energy Regulatory Commission following the suspension of four commissioners which could lead to a power shortage in the next five years.
“Taking into serious consideration the possible power outages and paralysis of the power industry due to the suspension of four commissioners of the ERC, consumer group Citizen Watch urges all parties, both government and private sectors alike, to do their part in ensuring that the power supply remains to be uninterrupted so as not to impede the progress of the entire economy,” Citizen Watch said.
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered a one-year suspension of all four commissioners of the ERC”•Josefina Patricia Asirit, Alfredo Non, Geronimo Sta. Ana and Gloria Yap-Taruc in December”•for allegedly giving power retailer Manila Electric Co. an undue advantage when it exempted it from the competitive selection process for power supply agreements.
“The stability of supply and price of power are of utmost importance, not only for the consumers but for the entire power industry,” Citizen Watch said.
The consumer group called for the speedy resolution of the issue. At the same time, CitizenWatch urged the industry players and stakeholders “not to take advantage of the situation and to closely monitor any artificial hike in electricity rates.”
Aboitiz Power Corp. president Antonio Moraza said the suspension could spell “disaster” for the energy industry while Semirara Mining and Power Corp. chairman Isidro Consunji said he was hoping the ERC could resume normal business soon.
“I hope the ERC starts running. So much has to be done. Otherwise another crisis in the next five years or so,” Consunji said.
The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association Inc., a group of power generators, also warned that a non-functioning ERC would be devastating to the power industry.
“PIPPA would like to stress that the energy industry needs a fully functional commission in order to effectively implement their mandate in accordance with Epira [Electric Power Industry Reform Act],” PIPPA said.
Epira mandated reforms in the power industry and ERC was tasked to regulate the sector.
“Without a working commission and putting a pause on the important work of the ERC, we will find ourselves without the needed approvals for PSAs, connection agreements, price determination regulation, compliance certificates and licenses,” PIPPA said.
PIPPA, an association of around 28 companies engaged in power generation, said these regulatory requirements were dependent on the ERC and could “negatively impact everyone from the generators, distribution utilities and ultimately to the consumers.”
PIPPA’s members have about 13,549.4 megawatts of grid installed capacity or 82.8 percent of the country’s total and serve millions of Filipinos in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
“As such, we cannot afford any delay on these activities as it will be detrimental to not only to the industry but to each and every consumer who relies on energy security,” PIPPA said.
PIPPA called for the quick and fair resolution of the issue, “so that the entire industry can move forward and work to achieve energy security, reliability, accessibility and affordability for all consumers.”
ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said they were looking at a “myriad of options” following the suspension, but said she remained optimistic that the agency would overcome the challenges.
Devanadera earlier said the Ombudsman’s decision could “paralyze the power sector, put at risk trillions of pesos of investments and plunge the country into darkness.”
“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,” Devanadera said.
“As a collegial body, the presence of at least three members of the commission is needed to constitute a quorum to enable the ERC to adopt any ruling, order, resolution, decision or other acts of the commission in the exercise of its quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions,” Devanadera said.