Household consumers, counting on their long-delayed dividends from energy sector reforms, found themselves empty-handed this week after the Supreme Court gave way to last-ditch efforts to derail retail competition and open access in the electric power industry, according to a non-government organization advocating consumer welfare.
Jake Silo, spokesperson of Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation Building, said consumers were hoping that the onset of mandatory contestability on Feb. 26 would result in lower electricity prices.
The group said this might no longer proceed, following the issuance of a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court en banc on Feb. 21 against the implementation of RCOA.
Mandatory contestability advances RCOA in the electric power industry, as it vests the competitive retail electricity market with volume demand from large power consumers or those whose average peak demand is at least 1 megawatt.
Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, all large power consumers were supposed to migrate to the CREM on Feb. 26, when they would be free to choose from among licensed retail electricity suppliers. Their migration has been voluntary since 2013, when RCOA officially started.
The SC decided to grant the TRO sought by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which led the last-ditch efforts to prevent the mandatory migration of large users of electricity from the captive market to CREM.
“The interests of rich industries have won over the interests of millions of household consumers once again. We have seen this play out over the past 12 years that RCOA has stalled. With the vigorous push coming from the Energy Regulatory Commission led by its head Jose Vicente Salazar, this year is the closest we came to the goal, so to be denied our victory feels like an injustice. How much longer must we wait until the promise of Epira is finally realized in the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” said Silo.
The Epira law envisioned that lower electricity prices should prevail as a result of greater competition and a level playing field under the RCOA regime, which should have commenced three years after the law took effect.