Two suspended ERC commissioners return to work

By Alena Mae S. Flores – October 11, 2018 at 07:35 pm

The Energy Regulatory Commission resumed work on pending applications submitted by power companies, after two of its commissioners, who were suspended for 90 days, returned to work on Oct. 10.

ERC commissioners Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana presided over the public consultation on the rules governing the procurement, execution and evaluation of power supply agreements signed by distribution utilities for the supply of electricity to their captive market.

The public consultations were held at the ERC Visayas Field Office in Cebu City. Newly appointed commissioner Alexis Lumbatan was also present.

ERC said attendees included members of both the generation and distribution sectors from the Visayas.

“The proposed rules initiated by the commission aims to streamline the review and approval process of PSAs, promote transparency in the manner of contracting and accountability among distribution utility officials in-charge of contracting power supply, and to promote competition among generation companies in providing the best offer of power supply which will ensure least cost of electricity for the DUs captive market in terms of the generation component of their retail rates,” it said.

The Ombudsman earlier ordered the suspension of retired commissioners Alfredo Non and Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Asirit and Sta. Ana for three months without pay starting May 18 for allegedly tolerating the misuse of bill deposits by allowing its commingling with the capital or operation cost of Manila Electric Co.

The Ombudsman acted on the complaint filed by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc. represented by Rafael Antonio Acebedo and Ma. Paz Esperanza Coronel.

The suspension order, however, was implemented only in July, which meant the suspension order ended on Oct. 9.

Malacañang appointed renewable energy advocate Catherine Maceda to the commission. Lumbatan and Maceda replaced Non and Yap-Taruc who reached retirement age.

ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera earlier said the agency could not act on Meralco’s pending power supply agreements due to the legal cases hurled against the commissioners.

“We are not acting on the seven PSAs [of Meralco] because there’s a case although you can always say that but there’s no TRO,” Devanadera said.

“But out of deference, both to Congress and to the Supreme Court, we have not acted on them,” she said.

Prior to the three-month suspension, Non, Yap-Taruc, Asirit and Sta. Ana were slapped with cases at the Ombudsman for allegedly giving Meralco undue advantage when it extended the submission of its PSA applications.

The Ombudsman, acting on the complaint of several groups, meted a one-year suspension on them in December.

The commissioners elevated the case to the Court of Appeals and were granted temporary restraining order against the suspension.