David Celestra Tan, MSK
28 November 2017
It is a good sign that President Duterte took time to choose carefully the new Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission in whose hands the fate of 100 million electric consumers would depend. Would they continue to be abused and overcharged or start being redeemed and treated with respect?
In terms of legal and political credentials, in lawyer Agnes VST Devanadera President Duterte could not have given us a more solid choice. Former Justice Secretary, former solicitor general, government corporate counsel, chief legal officer of DILG, secretary general of Lakas NUCD, executive director of PDAF. Ateneo law school and New York bar. And former mayor of Sampaloc, Quezon to booth. Devanadera is the most qualified and well- rounded ERC chair ever appointed yet since its creation in 2001, including our beloved Fe Barin.
We the electric consumers will not have to worry about the new ERC Chair knowing the letter and processes of the law. And her political and leadership background would most likely bring unity, order, and clearer sense of regulatory purpose to this critical Agency that had been thrown into mutiny, leaving the consumers mangled in its wake.
What defined the kind of ERC under the tenure of the previous Chairmen, who were more politicians than lawyers steeped in the culture of fund raising, were their implementation of the SPIRIT of the law.And In that we have high hopes in new Chair Devanadera who in her young life as Atty. Agnes Vicenta Salayo Torres is reported to have displayed the heart and spirit of an activist and reformist, willing to fight for what is right and the disadvantaged.
It is in the process of her immersing into this treacherous power sector that had been made complex by the vested interests, where she will be subjected to all sorts of briefings, good and bad, well meant and deviled. She will be like Adam in the Garden of Eden with the vested interests and their cohorts whispering to her ears of the goodness of the evil apple. Everyone will try to capture her mind and spirit.
In these we hope that new Chair Devanadera will listen to her own heart, for as the Little Prince said “it is only through the heart that one can see clearly”. After all, power deregulation is really founded on a simple idea. To assure ample supply of power at fair and reasonable least cost. The ERC had been taking care of the former, and doing terribly in the latter.
Will her heart see something askance in the public service utility like Meralco making 25% a year in profit on equity AFTER tax despite the business risks protection of the monopoly franchise? This despite the Supreme Court ruling that public service utilities are fairly entitled to only 12%. Will it strike her as odd the ERC allowing Meralco to charge 10.5% systems loss to its captive consumers when its own rules say 8%?
Will she see grave exploitation of captive electric consumers in Meralco, Veco, and Davao Light continuing to charge generation rates that they self-negotiated with their sister companies?
Will her soul be alarmed by the formation of a cartel by the 6 Meralco partners?And will the ERC under her finally step up to its legal mandates under Section 43(k) and 45 of the Epira Law to guard against cartelization, market power abuse, anti-competitive behavior, monopolization and its cousin oligopolization? And to at least do its motuproprioduty to investigate?
Will she see the grave injustice in delaying the penalties on those generators who manipulated the market in 2013 and the refunds to overcharged consumers in billions that have been pending in the ERC for so many years?
We admire lawyer Fe S. Barin, the first Chairman of the ERC who was guided by her heart and spirit and served the ERC with integrity until she was kicked upstairs because the vested interests “could not work with her”. Meaning they could not manipulate her. And the rest is history.
We thank President Duterte for giving the country a very well qualified ERC Chair. Let us hope that the President also gave her a clear mandate for the people.
Now it is up to new Chair Devanadera to define her own tenure. Her actions will hit or reprieve consumers’ hard earned pockets every month. If she just listens to her own heart and spirit, she will be good.
MatuwidnaSingilsaKuryente Consumer Alliance Inc.