ERC controversy sidetracking power retail competition issue

By Myrna M. Velasco – December 14, 2016, 10:01 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The skirmish engulfing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is regrettably shunting aside the much-needed focus on the implementation of retail competition and open access (RCOA) in the restructured electricity sector – one of the major reforms that the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) has envisioned.

Ultimately, this is a policy milestone that will afford qualified customers on their much hankered for “power of choice” when it comes to their preferred electricity service.

With calls for abolition of the ERC, power retail competition is also being cast into throes of uncertainty – that’s because it is the industry’s regulatory body that is setting the rules on retail competition with required policy underpinning from the Department of Energy (DOE).

This then prompted consumer advocate group Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation Building (ACTION) to call on the lawmakers to re-focus their attention on implementation of policy reforms that will be beneficial to electricity consumers in particular and the Filipino nation in general.

According to ACTION spokesperson Jake Silo,  “every time RCOA is delayed, they (consumers) end up paying the price.”

The ERC and DOE earlier agreed on a February 2017 timeline for the mandatory implementation of retail competition in the power industry – but with the controversy hounding the ERC, some parties are still trying to snag such envisioned competitive phase in the industry.

The issuance of the retail competition rules in May this year had been initially blocked by cases filed against the ERC and DOE, but a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court in October has reversed that fate.

Inauspiciously, Silo said “everything is up in the air all over again because the talk has shifted to abolishing the industry regulator.”

He stressed, “if our government and lawmakers are serious about their pledge to free consumers from the burden of high electricity costs, then it is incumbent upon them to consider very carefully the ramifications of disrupting energy sector reforms at this critical juncture.”

Silo thus called on Congress to ponder on this: “Before (they) jump on the ‘abolish the ERC bandwagon,’ they might do well to consider that in a multi-billion peso industry, why is the world turning on the anxieties of one person over a P490,000 contract that wasn’t even awarded?”

He added “what is the net effect of abolishing the ERC or even contemplating on it at this critical juncture? These are the questions begging for answers.”

He was apparently referring to an incident at the Commission that had triggered all the nasty developments now befalling the regulatory body.