By Myrna M. Velasco
The new chairperson of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has her ‘breaking of the bread’ discussion-session with most of the groups opposing the approval of the power supply agreements (PSAs) of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to extensively understand each other on disquieting concerns relating to the matter.
ERC chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera isn’t the ‘church girl’ pontificating on industry issues, but she emphasized that the intent of the dialogue is to “listen to their issues and concerns”, primarily on the supply deals of the country’s biggest power utility that had not been covered by competitive selection process (CSP) due to the policy’s deadline extension.
The ERC chairperson related that “this consumer dialogue started from a simple conversation and has now developed into a forum where we can discuss the consumers’ issues and concerns on electricity consumers.”
Taking off from that discourse, Devanadera indicated that “we will take their issues into consideration, but we also have to manage their expectations considering the fact that there is already a pending case before the Supreme Court on the CSP.”
The CSP is an auction policy on the contracting of power supply of distribution utilities, as prescribed by a Department of Energy via Circular and with underpinning rules from the ERC.
That was originally set in place on November 6, 2015, but its implementation had been extended to April 30, 2016 – and that warranted the filing of PSA petitions still not covered by the CSP process.
On the perplexing Meralco supply deal issues, the consumer-advocacy groups engaged by the ERC for a dialogue had been the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), primarily Romeo Junia, Erwin Puhawan, Mark Tecson, Rodolfo Javellana Jr. and Uriel Borja.
Devanadera considers such talk with the consumer groups “a positive development,” while giving word that “this is just the first of the many forums to be held of this kind.”
The next ones being dangled on the discussion table would be issues and concerns relating to performance-based rate-setting (PBR) regulation processes.
In turn, the consumer groups reportedly provided documents to Devanadera, “to apprise and aid her in addressing their issues,” fundamentally on that elusive goal of lowering electricity rates for consumers.