‘No final resolution yet on Meralco PSA issue’

By Lenie Lectura – September 21, 2017

from Business Mirror

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Thursday said that it would still accept  manifestations filed by some individuals in the final resolution of the Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) power-supply agreement (PSA) petitions.

“For filing out of time, the petitions for intervention will be treated as oppositions, instead, to the subject Meralco PSA applications,” ERC Officer In Charge Alfredo J. Non said.

Earlier, the ERC denied the petitions of Romeo Junia, Fe Bait, et al., and Uriel Borja, who all asked the ERC to intervene in the ongoing hearings. Their petitions were denied due to technicality.

The ERC Rules of Practice and Procedure, particularly in Section 2, Rule 9 thereof, provides that petitions for intervention must be filed with the ERC at least five days before the date of hearing.

Instead, the ERC resolved to treat the petitions for intervention as oppositions, considering the length of time that had already elapsed after the initial hearing of the case.

Junia and Bait, et. al. filed their respective petitions seven months after the initial hearing, while  Borja filed his petition nine months after the initial hearing on the subject Meralco PSA applications.

“The ERC Rules of Practice and Procedure is explicit and must be observed. We believe the ERC has been very liberal, and [the commission] has accorded due process to anyone who wishes to participate in any case or proceedings.  In this case, we will allow the belated oppositors and accept their manifestations to be considered in the final resolution of the case,” Non added.

Meanwhile, various groups are disappointed over the decision of the ERC.

“The rejection of the petition is not only a rejection of the consumer’s right to transparency and accountability from distribution utilities, like Meralco and the ERC, it also rejects their right to choose cheaper and cleaner energy alternatives than those offered by Meralco and its partners,” Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Executive Director
Gerry Arances said.

On June 30, CEED, along with multisectoral coalition Sanlakas, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Koalisyong Pabahay ng Pilipinas and other member-organizations of the Power for People (P4P) organization filed a petition questioning various irregularities concerning the process of application, as well as negative consequences which would arise if Meralco’s application is granted.

“These ‘sweetheart deals’ between Meralco and Meralco-owned coal companies are clear attempts to box out competition, particularly those from the renewable energy sector offering to sell power generated at a much lower cost,” Arances said.

“Industry experts have already pointed out that rejecting these deals will enable more renewable energy to enter the power mix, which is just what the country needs as renewable energy’s share has been declining since 2009 despite the passage of the renewable energy law,” he said.

Arances also stressed that the PSAs, covering the period of 2020 to 2040, are a way for Meralco to secure the extension of their franchise, which is set to expire in 2028. “If approved, Filipinos will be trapped in relying on and paying for costly, dirty and deadly energy from coal for the next 20 years, even if renewable alternatives are actually getting cheaper as we speak.”

“Invoking technicalities in their rejection shows clear double standard from the part of the ERC, as they were so willing to set rules aside when Meralco passed their application hours after the ERC closed its doors to meet the deadline, which meant that they would not be required to undergo a competitive selection process and public bidding,” said Sanlakas Secretary-General lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, one of the conveners of the assembly.

Sanlakas previously filed a case with the Ombudsman against the ERC, charging its top officials with graft after the office suspiciously moving the implementation of competitive selection process  rules four months after taking effect, leaving the door open for the Meralco to skip the competitive selection process.

“If our motion for reconsideration is still rejected by the ERC, we will not hesitate to go to the courts in calling for the junking of Meralco’s dirty contracts. The P4P and the growing number of consumers aware of this issue will also continue to hound the ERC and Meralco in front of their offices and in the streets to assert our position,” Pedrosa said. “We have been hurt for far too long. It’s time to end this abusive relationship.”