by Myrna Velasco, 18 August 2015
from Manila Bulletin
After deciding on initial 15 cases, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has committed to work faster on freeing up the more than 200 pending cases that have accumulated over the years.
To achieve that, ERC Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar told reporters in a briefing on Monday that he has already laid down some measures that will help motivate the people at the Commission to work harder on clearing the pile of those “unresolved” filings and applications.
In deciding cases, the ERC chair noted that they will set some balance as to which ones are of urgent nature and will also look at the cases which have already been “gathering dust”because of the length of time that these were filed and had not been acted upon.
“We will have to balance because there are matters that need to be immediately decided upon, we will always consider that… while there are priority cases, we will also look at those which were already there 4 years or five years,” Salazar said.
The ERC chair noted that the Commissioners already asked for a list of all the pending cases so they can evaluate the prioritization of decision-making on specific applications.
“For as long as we have the necessary information, for as long as we have the basis for making a decision and for as long as we have the time and the quorum, we will decide,” he averred.
And while the nagging media is giving him at least three-month bearing for his learning curve at the Commission, Salazar noted that he is willing to fast-track that and shall make it a 15-day latitude to familiarize himself with the industry’s issues and critical concerns.
“You said 3 months for a honeymoon period, I can have that shortened to 15 days… although I could have wished for seven years,” he said in jest.
“I should learn this as short as possible and that is one commitment I can give you – this will be a hardworking Chair and very diligent and fair… and one way of being fair is studying the cases so that I will be prepared in the discussions,” Salazar stressed.
For the people at the ERC, he emphasized that they are now working with the Department of Budget of Management (DBM) on adding plantilla positions as well as on reinforcing the salary levels as well as benefits of their employees.
ERC Commissioner Geronimo D. Sta. Ana has opined that the dilemma at the Commission is “not a question of competence of the people,” but the quasi-judicial body being undermanned and “not-so-well-compensated” if compared to the others in the industry.
“In my assessment, the people at the ERC are all competent. What just happened there was, we are lacking in workforce that’s why we incurred too much backlog, but the ERC is now doing something about it,” he interjected.
Sta. Ana added “we are now considering certain recommendations that will make the backlog disappear within a year’s time.”
The five-man Commission has vowed that the backlog of cases will certainly be cleared up in time – with the help also of their Australian consulting firm Castalia.