Epira amendments readied

by Alena Mae S. Flores – February 05, 2017 at 08:35 pm

from Manila Standard Today

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is proposing amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to further promote transparency and governance at the Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We want to improve transparency and governance standards. Reform is a much more appropriate process, not abolition,” Gatchalian said during a recent forum sponsored by Phinma Energy Corp.

Gatchalian noted that the energy sector was a complex industry and that removing the regulator and replacing it again would stunt the growth of the sector.

“Energy is a very complex industry. If you kick out everybody, there will be a learning curve… Definitely, we will consult international experts in regulation,” he said.

ERC was under fire late last year over allegations raised by the late ERC director Francis Jose Villa Jr., who committed suicide. ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar went on voluntary one-month leave on December 5 to give way to an investigation of the Commission on Audit and the National Bureau of Investigation.

CaA last week cleared the regulator of alleged irregularities from a audio visual presentation issue raised by Villa in his letter.

Villa’s suicide note prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to call for the abolition of the ERC, which the Epira created and mandated to regulate the power industry.

Gatchalian said he would also ask ERC for an update on pending cases. The processing of several power supply agreements, including those of Manila Electric Co., have been put on hold following the controversy.

“We will ask for an update with ERC, what’s pending and also talk also to industry players. Everything now is  provisional, they use benchmark but benchmark might not be accurate anymore. So we will have to look at contracts pending and the impact to the consumers,” the senator said.

The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association earlier wanted the ERC to continue and remain the energy sector’s regulatory body.

“With respect to the current investigation on alleged anomalies, PIPPA believes that it will be conducted with due process and resolved expeditiously,” the group said.

PIPPA is an association of 28 companies engaged in power generation. PIPPA’s members collectively have 82.8 percent, or equivalent to 13,549.4 megawatts, of installed grid capacity and serve millions of Filipinos in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

It said the power industry recognized and supported the initiatives and reforms being implemented by the commission in furthering the ERC’s institutional integrity, capabilities and efficiency.

Citing the urgency to modernize and expand the country’s current infrastructure, PIPPA said more investments were needed in the industry more than ever.

“Continuity and a certainty in policy direction are imperatives in raising such investments,” the group said.