ERC upholds jurisdiction over energy ‘competition’ cases

by Myrna M. Velasco – March 6, 2017, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has upheld jurisdiction over anti-competitive cases that involve players in the restructured electricity sector.

This was asserted by the ERC in a ruling rendered relating to a motion filed by Manila Electric Company (Meralco), with the utility firm insisting that the regulatory body’s role over competition cases has already been replaced by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), a body created under Republic Act 10667.

The ERC noted that while the PCC had been vested with powers to rule on anti-competitive raps across industries, it shares such with the ERC in the case of the energy sector.

ERC Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar set on record that “despite the broad authority given by the Competition Law to the Philippine Competition Commission over anti-competition cases in all industries, it did not affect nor diminish the jurisdiction already acquired by the ERC.”

It could be culled that Meralco sought to transfer the case involving it into alleged anti-competitive behavior relating to its power supply deal with Therma Mobile, Inc. on circumstances that triggered price spikes during the Malampaya shutdown in 2013.

The ERC qualified that the enactment of the Philippine Competition Law, “similarly granted the PCC jurisdiction over anti-competitive cases in all industries, which include the energy sector, at which point the jurisdiction granted to the ERC ceased to be exclusive.”

That as a given, the ERC said that “both the PCC and the ERC may now exercise jurisdiction over anti-competition cases in the energy sector in a concurrent capacity.”

In the Meralco-TMO anti-competition case, however, the ERC asserted that “it had already acquired jurisdiction over the case prior to the enactment of the PCA.”

The quasi-judicial regulatory body thus explained that “consequently, where concurrent jurisdiction exists in several tribunals, the body that first takes cognizance of the complaint shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of others.”

In such circumstance the ERC reiterated that since the case had already been filed with it first, it already gained jurisdiction over it.

This then warrants that the ERC has “the authority to proceed and decide the case to the exclusion of other agencies granted with the same jurisdiction.”