Energy Advocate Counsel

Published August 7, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Atty. Vic Dimagiba

Do we need an Energy Advocate Counsel?

I have come across this interesting piece of proposed legislation creating the Energy Advocate Counsel.In a House Bill,there shall be established an institutionalized and independent end-user representation in rate setting, rule-making, and other energy-related cases and proceedings before government agencies, including administrative, judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.

The Energy Advocate Counsel (EAC) is a publicofficial thatshall represent all captive market electricity end-users in the energy sector, and matters affecting the public interest before any department, commission, agency, quasi-judicial body or court requiring the services of a lawyer. It shall independently discharge its mandate towards the best interest of all captive end-users, ensuring least cost without compromising safety, reliability, efficiency and accessibility of electricity.

The powers of the Energy Advocate Counsel are as follows:

(1) Initiate, intervene, and represent all end-users, in the following:(

(a) Rate-setting, rule-making, and other energy-related cases, complaints, proceedings, and consultations regarding, but not limited to, electric generation, transmission and distribution projects, as well as power supply agreement applications, before the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), National Electrification Administration (NEA), Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.

(b) Initiate actions before any trial or appellate court, including the Supreme Court, which involve the validity of any decision, memoranda, rule, regulation, circular, or order of the DOE, ERC, NEA, PCC, and other departments, commissions, and agencies insofar as such decisions and policy issuances affecting electricity rates and services;

(2) Monitor all issuances, acts and omissions of the DOE, ERC, NEA, PCC, and other departments, commissions, and agencies and formulate and issue the necessary comments or legal memoranda insofar as such decisions affect electricity rates and electric services;

(3) Evaluate and act upon request and complaint from end-users concerning the matters set forth in items (1) and (2), except that any court proceedings initiated by the EAC shall be brought on behalf of the complainant, intervenor or petitioner and not on behalf of the captive market end-user. The initiation or continuation of any proceedings shall be in the sole discretion of the EAC;

(4) Conduct investigations, initiate studies, undertake researches, present comments and testimonies before governmental bodies, issue reports, and engage in regular information, education, and communication programs for all captive market end-users on laws, rules, regulations, decisions, circulars, and orders that affect electricity rates and services, including end-user rights and remedies;

(5) consult directly with end-users on a regular basis in order to determine the concerns of end-users with respect to electricity rates;

(6) Be furnished or served, as the case may be, by departments, commissions, and agencies with all pertinent documents, notices, petitions, applications, complaints, answers, motions, and other pleadings in all related cases, complaints, proceedings, and consultations involving rate-settings and electric services;

            (7) Have the right to access, free of charge, all files, records, and documents in the DOE, ERC, NEA, PCC and other departments, commissions, and agencies pertaining to energy-related cases, complaints, proceedings, and consultations: Provided, That the files, records, and documents do not pertain to the following:

(a)            Personnel information or any information that may violate Republic Act No. 10173, otherwise known as the “Data Privacy Act of 2012”;

(b)            Confidential communication between commissioners, judges, or justices and general counsels on records relating to proceedings in which the EACO is a party to; and

(c) Confidential information and privileged communication declared as such by the ERC, the PCC and other relevant departments, commissions and agencies.

Given all this, Energy Advocate Counsel shall have the authority to administer oaths in connection with the performance of their duties in accordance with the Rules of Notarial Practice and other relevant issuances.

We in LabanKonsyumer Inc. (LKI) view this piece of legislation guardedly. We believe  that the legislation proposed by thespouses Recto in2018 that shall require the representation of consumer organizations in the Boards or Commissions of regulators of public utilities and business affected with public interest can better serves the interests of the consumers and the general public because consumer organizations will be given the opportunity to discharge their duties enshrined in our fundamental law.

Atty. Vic Dimagiba

President of Laban Konsyumer Inc., a full term member of Consumers International

Email at [email protected]