Gatchalian proposes creation of independent energy watchdog

By Danessa Rivera – May 18, 2019 – 12:00am
from The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A law is being proposed to institutionalize an independent energy watchdog that will focus on consumer protection.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, has filed Senate Bill 2222, or “Energy Consumer Advocate Act,” which seeks to create the energy consumer advocate office (ECAO).

ECAO would represent consumers in all rate-setting, rule-making, and other energy related cases and proceedings before government agencies, including judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.

Gatchalian said the bill is aimed at institutionalizing independent consumer representation in the energy sector, given the glaring lack of representation for consumers in cases filed before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“The state must recognize the right of energy consumers to reasonable rates, adequate and reliable services, and transparent processes involving these rates and services,” he said.

“Towards this end, there is a need for institutionalized and independent consumer representation in energy-related cases and proceedings before government agencies,” Gatchalian said.

Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) mandates the ERC to set performance standards and retail rates in the energy sector, allow the recovery of just and reasonable costs as well as reasonable return, and ensure consumer protection.

If passed into law, the ECAO will be tasked with representing consumers in energy sector matters affecting the public interest before any department, commission, agency, or court.

Headed by the Energy Consumer Advocate (ECA), the ECAO would be an independent and autonomous office attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The proposed measure also seeks to prohibit the ECA and deputy ECA from serving as members of the board or as officers, employees, or consultants of any energy company, and from having any interest, ownership, or stake in any energy company during their term of office to ensure their independence.

They are also enjoined from being members of a political party or committee and from engaging in partisan political activity.