Contenders vying for 2 vacant ERC commissioner-posts

Published July 17, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

A former Finance Undersecretary who served under the Arroyo administration is being floated among the prospective contenders of one of the two commissioner-posts at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that had been vacated recently.

According to sources from the industry, the former finance official currently has a sterling career with a multinational company that has expertise in consulting and accountancy.

For the other vacancy at the ERC, it was similarly tipped off that an executive from Iloilo who is “close to someone with personal association with President Rodrigo Duterte” is being considered for the post.

Two ERC Commissioners – Josefina Patricia M. Asirit and Paul Christian M. Cenvantes – retired on July 10 this year; hence, the industry is now in full anticipation that their replacements will be named soon.

Asirit served her full seven-year term at the Commission; while Cervantes just had less than two years of tenure because he just continued the term of former Commissioner Geronimo Santa Ana who resigned in 2018.

The ERC currently has three officials – Commissioners Catherine P. Maceda and Alexis M. Lumbatan, as well as ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, hence, they still have a quorum that could legally warrant them to render decisions for the regulatory body.

The Commission is currently clobbered with tens of thousands of complaints from consumers because of the “estimated power billings” during the lockdown period at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, if new Commissioners will be appointed soon, industry stakeholders noted that “it will be some sort of baptism of fire for the new officials who will really need to hasten their learning curve on the complexity and technical intricacies of the energy sector especially on rate-setting.”

Onward, the new ERC officials will need to advance immediately on their knowledge about prospective digitalization of the energy sector – including on the deployment of smart meters and the rollout of smart grids.

And the more contentious part of their job will be on how they can keep pace as a Commission on faster evaluations and approvals of power supply agreements and other petitions — given that the country will be hurdled anew with tight supply conditions in the immediate term.

It has to be noted that investors incessantly complained of “slow process” of PSA approvals; and such stifled investment flow for new power capacities since the power sector was restructured roughly two decades ago.

Another one in the Commission’s to-do list will be calculation of ‘green energy tariff’ that will then help incentivize the flow of renewable energy ventures in the country – that will be an underpinning regulation to the rollout of Green Energy Option Program (GEOP) and the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) primarily for the capacities that will be auctioned soon by the government.