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ERC to clear 61 pending rulings during TRO on suspensions

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ERC Chairman Agnes T. Devanadera

By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will be issuing rulings on 61 pending cases within the 60-day period when its four commissioners are back at work in compliance with a Court of Appeals (CA) temporary restraining order (TRO) on their suspensions.

“What we can do right now is the promulgation of the 61 cases,” ERC Chairman Agnes T. Devanadera said during a news conference at the commission’s headquarters on Monday.

The commission has already acted on the 61 applications covering various matters, she said. The pending cases have completed the deliberation process and will be forwarded to the ERC’s technical and legal departments for the writing of their respective decisions.

“There are processes here and we have to make sure that the processes are in place,” she said.

Ms. Devanadera said the Office of the Ombudsman’s suspension jeopardized the ERC and the power industry that it regulates, and the welfare of consumers.

The ERC commissioners were suspended for restating the effective date of a resolution on the competitive selection process (CSP), which requires distribution utilities and power generation companies to subject their power supply agreements (PSAs) to price challenges.

Questions on the legality of the CSP are still pending with the Supreme Court and the ERC commissioners must be accorded substantial due process.

“By substantive due process, it means that the suspension should be based on a just or authorized cause,” Ms. Devanadera said.

The 61 cases for promulgation include applications for capital expenditure, point-to-point transmission facilities, and cases involving interim relief or provisional authority on power contracts.

“With the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals, the ERC can now resume the regular performance of our duties and functions and act on petitions with urgency,” Ms. Devanadera said.

She said she was glad that the court had given weight on the impact of the vacuum of leadership caused by the Ombudsman’s suspension of the ERC commissioners by considering “the welfare of the electric power industry stakeholders, most especially the consuming public who will suffer the consequences of the ERC’s inability to perform its mandate.”

None of the PSAs entered into by distribution utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) are among these, Ms. Devanadera said.

Alfredo J. Non, one of the four commissioners whose suspension was put on hold, said there was no timetable for when the Meralco PSAs would be decided.

“It’s not for me for say,” he said.

Asked whether they will be resolved by July before his retirement, he said: “Probably not… because some of the cases also still have to be heard.”

“If it’s completed before my time, fine. If it’s not … the other commissioners, or the new commissioners, continue on,” he said.

“How long does it take for the hearing to be completed? After the hearing, it will have to be discussed by our technical working group. After that, they will have to make recommendations to the commission and then we will deliberate.

“Deliberation doesn’t take only one sitting. Sometimes it takes two or three sittings,” he said.