ERC: Paltry budget to destabilize power

by Alena Mae S. Flores – September 06, 2017 at 07:35 pm


The Energy Regulatory Commission and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday appealed the decision of the House of Representatives to allocate just P1,000 for the agency’s 2018 budget, saying it will have a devastating impact on the energy industry.

The ERC, in a statement, said it respected the decision of the House and understood the issues weighing heavily on the agency.

Rep. Celso Lobregat moved to sponsor P1,000 for the ERC during the plenary deliberations on the 2018 national budget. Rep. Lito Atienza, a member of the minority, seconded his motion.

“And we share the sentiments of the esteemed Congressmen as we strive to resolve the said controversies following the death of a beloved colleague, ERC director and Bids and Awards Committee chairman Francisco Jose Villa Jr.,” the statement said.

Gatchalian warned against drastically cutting the 2018 budget of the ERC and cautioned his fellow lawmakers of the potentially devastating impact on the stability of the power sector.

The ERC had originally requested an allocation of P365 million to fund its operations next year.

The ERC is responsible for approving power rates and issuing key permits required to get pending power projects off the ground.

Gatchalian expressed concer the massive budget cut would severely hamper the ERC’s ability to fulfill these functions.

“The ERC plays an indispensable role in the energy sector as its foremost regulatory institution. I fear that this budget cut will send a bad signal to energy investors and breed uncertainty in terms of electricity supply and power rates,” said Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

The ERC said the commissioners conducted an internal inquiry on the allegations raised by Villa and submitted a comprehensive report to the Office of the President on April 2017.

The report detailed “the irregularities ranging from failure to follow procurement procedures, concealment of documents and among others, unilaterally signing orders without commission deliberations and approval.”

The ERC said the report and an anonymous complaint from concerned employees prompted Malacañang to further investigate the allegations leveled against ERC chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente Salazar, who was suspended for insubordination.

The regulator said other government agencies had conducted their respective investigations into the irregularities, and that the commissioners as well as staff  cooperated to arrive at an early resolution of the issues.

“The four commissioners, during chairman Salazar’s suspension, are striving to guide the agency to discharge its functions as normally as possible. However, Salazar’s infractions and their far-reaching effects continue to hound the agency, and these have not escaped the attention of Congress and the public in general, thus, the call for the resolution of the said issues,” it said.