A party-list lawmaker on Tuesday hit the Energy Regulatory Commission for imposing what he described as a “double standard” between the Manila Electric Co. and consumer groups who want to oppose questionable energy deals.
“We cannot blame the people for thinking that ERC imposes double standard since they’re very strict with the rules when it comes to consumer groups,” Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate told a congressional hearing conducted by the House committees on good government and public accountability, and energy.
The congressional inquiry was in response to House Resolution 566 which Zarate had filed on the seven controversial power supply agreements (PSAs) that Meralco-affiliated generation companies (gencos) are applying for before the ERC.
The resolution was among the resolutions tackled during the previous hearings conducted by the joint panel on the PSAs dubbed as “sweetheart deals” between Meralco and the ERC since these were accepted after the five o’clock in the evening April 29, 2016 filing deadline had lapsed. Thus, the double standard.
“That is why the consumer groups cannot understand why we were so strict with the rules regarding intervention…there are instances that these things are accommodated,” Zarate said.
“They should first implement the rules,” Zarate said of the regulatory body.
PSAs at ERC include deals on the construction of coal-fired power plants with the following entities: Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (for a 225-megawatt [MW] plant); Atimonan One Energy Inc. (1,200 MW); St. Raphael Power Generation Corp. (400 MW); Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp. (528 MW); Mariveles Power Generation Corp. (528 MW); Panay Energy Development Corp. (70 MW); Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (600 MW).
Zarate, in filing HR 566, had claimed that consumers could lose up to P12.44 billion annually if all seven PSAs are given the green light.
Consumer advocates Romeo Junia and Uriel Borja also decried the ERC’s alleged unfair treatment.
“Despite the fact that their [gencos] applications were filed 5:30 p.m. onwards, and the other four cases that have no number obviously can’t be filed earlier because Redondo, the lowest numbered case was filed 5:30 in the afternoon. The others have higher numbers. Obviously there were [filed] after 5:30 p.m.’ said Junia, a representative of United Filipino Consumers and Commuters and Freedom from Debt Coalition.
The ERC earlier denied Junia and Borja’s petitions to become intervenors on the PSAs after they belatedly filed their motions for intervention. The filing period is five days prior to the initial hearing of the case.
“If you can recall Mr. Chairman in an earlier hearing, the ERC resource person even admitted that they stayed open until 11 p.m. or close to midnight just to receive the applications. You should have had a competitive selection process [CSP] beforehand because that's what the rules said. Any application after 5 p.m. of April 29 will not be received without the CSP,” Junia said during the congressional hearing.
Borja lamented the mounting legal expenses in connection with the challenging of such power deals. He claimed that Meralco does not have this problem.
“The good thing about Meralco as far as their costs go, they [pass] it to their consumers but we, who represent consumer interests, will have to do it on our own.”
"We have to hire lawyers and it costs us hundreds of thousands of pesos per case. And certain cases have already cost us millions of pesos. Nahihirapan kami [It's a burden to us], it costs a lot of money," Borja said.