New commissioner vows to put ERC in order

By Alena Mae S. Flores – November 30, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Newly-installed Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Agnes Devanadera said she wants to put order in the commission and provide better service to power consumers.

Devanadera, a former Justice secretary, replaced former ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar who was ordered removed from office by Malacañang. She said her immediate action would be “to reinstate the synergy among the workers in ERC so that the institution can move faster and the institution can be part of the team in the energy sector.”

The regulator was hit by a controversy after the suicide of an employee in November last year after raising allegations of corruption in the agency. The death of Jose Francisco Villa sowed distrust in the agency and cases were filed against Salazar and other commissioners.

The remaining four commissioners asked Malacañang to suspend and remove from office Salazar on  several complaints.

The Office of the President issued a decision dated  Oct. 6, which found  Salazar guilty of two counts of simple misconduct and one count of grave misconduct and “imposes upon him the penalty of dismissal from the service with all accessory penalties.”

“Put the house in order and so far as the public is concerned, the institution, the regulations, the regulatory body, they are always there not just to regulate but primarily, to do a balance and to protect the consumer,” Devanadera said.

“If we have the right synergy then the institution will move a lot faster,” she said. The former solicitor general is set to start work on Monday.

“As we observed during the JCPC [the Joint Congressional Power Commission] meeting, there seems to be a lot [to do] but there are many other factors that we have to consider,” she said.

Devanadera expressed confidence that Salazar would accept Malacanang’s decision to appoint her in office, especially as they had worked together at the Justice Department.

“With regards to my predecessor, I don’t think we’ll have that kind of issue because when I came in the Department of Justice as acting secretary, I brought him along with me as my undersecretary for projects funded by international funding agencies. So, I don’t think we’ll have that kind of difficulties and the President has spoken so let’s go to work,” she said.

Devanadera said she would ensure that the needed personnel were filled up and the salaries of employees were competitive.

“There are vacancies that we need to fill up. There is a problem in the institution not just because of personalities…and salary of the employees are not competitive  those are part of reinforcing the house,” she said.

Devanadera did not commit on when the ERC would act on the pending power supply agreements  of Manila Electric Co. which also drew opposition from various groups.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said he was hopeful that Devanadera’s appointment would “energize” the regulatory body.

“We are hopeful. We know Agnes, her qualifications. I’m sure that she will be leading ERC, energized,” Cusi said.

Devanadera’s appointment drew support from the other commissioners.

“The commissioners welcome her appointment and believe the industry and the players would benefit from her appointment especially with her extensive experience,” ERC commissioner Alfredo Non said.

The other commissioners are Gloria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana.