Towards the end of 2016, hundreds of power customers aired their grievances over what they saw as unreasonable and unrealistic rules emanating from a government ruling that requires industrial and commercial customers to forcibly sign up with a Retail Electricity Supplier, or RES, by Feb. 26, 2017.
Hundreds in attendance reiterated apprehensions that there was very little time for them to secure a Retail Supply Contract, or RSC, with an RES before the deadline, in accordance with the new ruling imposed under Retail Competition and Open Access or RCOA.
Per the Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy resolutions, these previously captive customers should by then have switched to the contestable power market by the cut-off date.
Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College Alabang, in a joint statement, recently expressed satisfaction and relief following the Supreme Court's recent ruling imposing a temporary restraining order on the recent rulings and policies by the ERC and DoE affecting RCOA.
Both schools said they are encouraged the SC declared their joint petition as “successfully establishing a clear, legal right to the TRO,” as they seek to uphold the spirit of Epira, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which protects the freedom and the rights of all power consumers.
Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin SJ said: “ADMU believes that our government and ruling bodies should ultimately seek to protect our basic, constitutional right to freedom of choice. And this right should extend to all electricity consumers.
“If we are allowed to choose the best supplier for our needs in a market that is allowed to work freely and for the common good, then such a scenario will be most beneficial to all consumers concerned, especially those smaller scale contestable customers like schools and universities that may have a difficult time searching for a new contract,” he said.
Villarin adds: “This recent TRO is an encouraging development towards preserving the right of every Filipino to choose freely, and we hope that this TRO paves the way to a more progressive power industry and a safer economic environment for the academe.”
Concern was also raised by the academic community regarding the originally proposed deadline by ERC and DOE, and the additional premium they would have to pay if the deadline would not be met.
“Admittedly, it would be very difficult for academic establishments like San Beda College Alabang to meet the proposed deadline by ERC and DOE of February 26, 2017,” said Fr. Aelred Nilo, OSB, Director for Finance, Administration & General Services of San Beda College Alabang.
“It would be forcing customers to enter into new retail supply contracts or otherwise suffer the consequence of being disconnected from the distribution utility, or being made to pay a supplier of last resort a 10 percent premium between the higher contract cost and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market,” Nilo added.
It will also be recalled that at the forum last year, licensed suppliers handpicked by ERC were being selective with their offers, and wouldn't even call them if their load factors are deemed too low.
University of Sto. Tomas head of Electrical Engineering Oliver Gagarin lamented the fact that no RES accredited by ERC approached them.
"Talagang walang lumalapit sa amin. Kasi bago kami mamili, sila na ang namimili," said Gagarin. "We have a very low load factor. Hindi talaga kami attractive to a RES."
"Gusto lang namin ipabatid sa DOE na wala yung sinasabi nilang choice. So puputulan kami dahil wala kaming choice," he added.
Major consumer groups also hailed the SC decision as a victory for consumers. Bantay Kuryente Secretary General Pet Climaco said: “This shows that there is multi-sectoral opposition to the ERC’s new policy. Faced with unrealistic and anti-consumer policies, business groups, academic institutions, consumers and civil society must continue to rally together and have their voices heard."