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ERC junks bid to end power supply racket

By Luis Leoncio

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) rejected the petition for intervention filed by the Power for People (P4P) Coalition, a coalition of civic groups, consumer organizations, and homeowners against Meralco’s Power Supply Agreements (PSAs) involving 3,551 megawatt (MW) of coal with its sister companies.

P4P criticized the ERC decision as being biased against the dominant power distributor.

“The rejection of the petition is not only a rejection of the consumer’s right to transparency and accountability from distribution utilities like Meralco and the Energy Regulatory Commission, it also rejects their right to choose cheaper and cleaner energy alternatives than those offered by Meralco and its partners,” said Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances.

Last June, CEED, along with multisectoral coalition Sanlakas, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Koalisyong Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP) and other member organizations of the Power for People (P4P) organization (P4P) filed a petition questioning various irregularities concerning the process of application, as well as the dire consequences that may arise if Meralco’s application is granted.

“These ‘sweetheart deals’ between Meralco and Meralco-owned coal companies are clear attempts to box out competition, particularly those from the renewable energy sector offering to sell power generated at a much lower cost,” Arances said.

“Industry experts have already pointed out that rejecting these deals will enable more renewable energy to enter the power mix, which is just what the country needs as renewable energy’s share has been declining since 2009 despite the passage of the Renewable Energy Law,” he added.

Arances also stressed that the PSAs, covering the period of 2020 to 2040, are a way for Meralco to secure the extension of their franchise which is set to expire on 2028. “If approved, Filipinos will be trapped in relying on and paying for costly, dirty, and deadly energy from coal for the next 20 years, even if renewable alternatives are actually getting cheaper as we speak,” he continued.

Protest actions in front of the ERC, Meralco, and its sister companies followed the submission of the petition, demanding that the ERC reject the coal contracts.

Also recently, Metro Manila homeowners covered by Meralco’s franchise assembled to collectively condemn Meralco’s PSA applications and urged the government to reject them.

“Once again, electric consumers have been shut out of the process. The denial of our petition for intervention is ERC slamming its doors on Meralco consumers who will foot the bill of these 20-year contracts,” said Sanlakas Secretary General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, one of the convenors of the assembly.

“Invoking technicalities in their rejection shows clear double-standard from the part of the ERC, as they were so willing to set rules aside when Meralco passed their application hours after ERC closed its doors to meet the deadline,” he said.

Sanlakas previously filed an Ombudsman case against ERC, charging its top officials with graft after the office suspiciously moving the implementation of CSP rules four months after taking effect, leaving the door open for the MERALCO to skip the competitive selection process.

“The denial trivializes and obscures the many issues raised and leaves more questions than answers. It also sets the tone for the upcoming congressional hearing on Sept 26 to be conducted by the House Committee on Good Government,” Pedrosa noted.

“If our motion for reconsideration is still rejected by the ERC, we will not hesitate to go to the courts in calling for the junking of Meralco’s dirty contracts. The P4P and the growing number of consumers aware of this issue will also continue to hound ERC and Meralco in front of their offices and in the streets to assert our position,” Pedrosa stated. “We have been hurt for far too long. It’s time to end this abusive relationship,” he said.

“These ‘sweetheart deals’ would expose corporate greed at the expense of the consumer. Not only it is detrimental to the pocket of the people, but would also show the dark side of Meralco penchant of dirty and costly energy putting the health and safety of the people in the coal-impacted communities at risk,” said Erwin Puhawan, energy campaign coordinator of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC).

“We are witnessing the unabashed collusion between these companies and Meralco to maximize profits without regard to the well-being of coal affected communities. Meralco and its sister companies through its PSAs want electric consumers to be an accessory to the evils coal plants pose to health, livelihood and environment,” Pedrosa added.

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