By Myrna M. Velasco – October 23, 2018, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin
As Commissioner Geronimo D. Sta Ana has opted for a retirement ahead of the completion of his term, Malacañang is reportedly set to appoint his replacement very soon at the Energy Regulatory Commission.
Sources hinted that the post to be vacated by Sta Ana will be placed in the hands of a lawyer, who at the same time, is a certified public accountant- and the nomination reportedly came from ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera.
It will be some form of early retirement for Sta Ana, because his term at the Commission is set to lapse in year 2021 yet.
Sta Ana formally handed his retirement application to Devanadera on September 16 this year – that was even prior to the winding up of the latest three-month suspension enforced against the ERC Commissioners by the Office of the Ombudsman.
With Sta Ana’s exit, the ERC will already be clearly dominated by appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte, with Commissioner Josefina Patricia M. Asirit the “only woman standing” from those designated by the past administration.
Of the five Commissioners then, four would be in the legal profession; while there’s no one from the technical field – such as engineering; and they also lack a Commissioner with unfeigned expertise in economic regulation.
Instead of reinforcing the regulatory body with people who have exceptional training and expertise on regulation of power utilities and the overall energy sector, the ERC had turned into a “reward agency” for those who are politically affiliated with the incumbent administration.
That then explains the thousands of case backlogs and the unwarranted delays that projects had to suffer from in the very hands of the regulators – who spend most of their stay at the Commission just learning the intricacies and complexities of the power sector instead of easing the path of doing business.
In Devanadera’s time, she is promising to rid the Commission of at least 1,000 of the case backlogs by the first quarter of 2019 – but it remains to be seen if the regulatory body can really deliver on that commitment.
There are also proposals to overhaul the regulating agency – and that entails beefing up the Commissioner-positions to seven from currently at five. The bill is pending deliberations in Congress but has been certified urgent by the legislative leadership.