ERC gets court reprieve to keep 4 commissioners

By Alena Mae S. Flores – April 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

The Court of Appeals granted the petition of the four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission to keep working in the agency despite the suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.

A 60-day temporary relief issued by the appellate court lapsed Thursday, raising concern among energy stakeholders who were waiting for the regulatory agency to act on several applications.

The appellate court immediately issued an injunction against the suspension order imposed by the Ombudsman against the four commissioners.

“The injunction is aimed at stopping the implementation of the suspension while the case remains pending,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said.

The Ombudsman ordered a one-year suspension on commissioners Josefina Patricia Asirit, Alfredo Non, Geronimo Sta. Ana and Gloria Yap-Taruc in December for allegedly giving Manila Electric Co. an undue advantage when it extended the submission of its power supply agreement applications.

“This resolution will allow ERC to function unimpeded as a collegial body until the case is finally resolved if the CA will uphold the suspension imposed by the Ombudsman. If the case is resolved in favor of the four commissioners, then there is no suspension to speak of,” Devanadera said.

The CA’s 9th Division said in a resolution dated April 13 that “the petitioners and the Office of the Solicitor General’s prayer for the issuance of of preliminary injunction is granted.”

The OSG represented the four ERC commissioners.

“Accordingly, the Division Clerk of Court is directed forthwith issue a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the public respondents and/or any of their authorized agents or representatives from implementing/executing the Sept. 29, 2017 decision of the Office of the Ombudsman,” the CA resolution signed by associate justice Mariflor Punzalan Castillo and concurred by associate justices Danton Bueser and Henri Jean Paul Inting stated.

Devanadera said last week the ERC exceeded its target to resolve 100 cases during the 60-day TRO granted to halt the suspension of the commissioners.

“We have exceeded 100 cases resolved because they have been processed and ripe for resolution by the commission,” the ERC chief said.

The ERC earlier vowed to issue promulgations on 60 pending and 40 new cases within 60 days after the four suspended commissioners received a 60-day reprieve from the CA.

The four commissioners together with Devanadera went to work, immediately extending the COCs and PAOs of nine generation companies in February to allow them to trade in the electricity market.

The ERC granted provisional authorities to operate and issued certificates of compliances to eight generation companies aimed at averting power supply shortage during the hot dry months.

“With the approvals of PAOs and COCs to generation companies, power supply will be augmented as additional power will be injected into the grid. This will keep a stable power supply especially during the coming summer months when the demand for electricity is expected to increase drastically.  That’s why we, at the ERC, are acting with dispatch to avert load shedding or brown outs,” Devanadera said.

Among the biggest power projects granted COC was the Pagbilao Unit 3’s 420 megawatt coal-fired power plant and black start generator with 1.04 MW capacity both in Pagbilao, Quezon thus helping ensure adequate power supply in the Luzon grid.