Solon pines for pre-Epira days in power generation
MANILA, Philippines—The head the House committee on energy is yearning for the days before the government handed over to the private sector the keys to the power generation industry under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) 12 years ago.
“At least then, we had somebody to blame—Napocor (National Power Corp.). Now, nobody wants to take the blame not even the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) which is supposed to protect the public’s interest,” said Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali in a phone interview.
Umali noted that central to the takeover of the private sector was Epira’s commitment to “establish a strong and purely independent regulatory body and system.”
“Unfortunately, the past 12 years has been littered with rulings, orders, decisions and administrative issuances of the ERC that fall horribly short of even the most liberal standards or benchmarks of compliance with the promise to protect and promote consumer interest,” said Umali.
The ERC is currently chaired by an appointee of the previous administration, former Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, who was accused of getting five percent commission for every pork barrel project she brought detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion port barrel scam.
The three other commissioners are Aquino appointees Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, and Josefina Magpale-Asirit, a niece of Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.
Umali cited the ERC’s recent decision approving the P4.15 per kilowatt hour rate hike sought by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) despite the Department of Energy’s initial findings that private generation companies conspired to bring down supply and ramp up fuel prices.
Asirit argued before the House energy committee that the watchdog had no choice but to approve Meralco’s rate hike because all fluctuations in fuel prices were automatically passed on to consumers.
“Strengthening the ERC will be the main priority of Congress once it starts to amend the Epira which has been an epic failure since 2001—no new power plants have been built, electricity rates are among the highest in the world, and the pricing system has remained opaque,” said Umali.
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