David Celestra Tan, MSK
17 January 2018

When the widespread power blackouts hit the country in early 1990’s the government and consumers gave in to all the juicy and overpriced contracts and waived environmental compliances.  Thus was born the “power crisis gambit” that the vested interests use regularly since then every time they want to overpower people resistance to approvals of high priced and negotiated power rates. And one is on-going now.

The day after the Four (4) ERC Commissioners received on December 21, 2017 the Ombudsman decision suspending them for one year for evidently favoring Meralco with 3,551mw of 20 year power supply contracts, the newly appointed ERC Chair Agnes VST Devanadera fired off a panic letter on the 22nd of December to the president of the country who appointed her, raising the specter of a crippled and devastated economy if the ERC fails to act on a claimed P1.5 trillion in utility applications for electric coop capital expenditures, and about 80 power generation projects.

The newly appointed ERC Chair according to consumer group Alyansa Para SaBagongPilipinas (ABP) gave the President a list of 14 electric coop and utility projects that will not be acted upon if there is no quorum at the ERC. Ominously, Devanadera’s list conveniently omitted the 3,551mw of Meralco Power Gen contracts that while only seven (7) applications comprised an estimated 80% of the projects that will be held. ABP said Devanadera’s list was misleading the President. We are not yet giving up on Devanadera. She just needs to stop making those “sablay” rookie mistakes.

Just today the Philippine Star that is owned by the MVP Group that owns Meralco carried a banner article saying “nearly 5,550mw of power contracts stalled amid ERC vacuum” The Article quoted ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera as saying “the pending contracts include 43 new certificates of compliance (COC) equivalent to 2,977.89mw, renewal of 47 expired COC’s worth 1,971,49mw and 29 expired power supply agreements which cover 544mw in supply.  But the article that is an out and out attempt at threatening and coercing the people and government is the one written by the vested interests favorite energy writer who bannered “ERC Leadership vacuum heightens blackout probability in summer”.  Article averred “because of the lacking licenses to operate and supply contracts, the country will be in for unwanted brownouts especially during the summer months.

PIPPA itself chimed in “there is an urgent need to address this issue on COC’s, PSA’s and connection agreements.”

The possibility of brownouts is true if the COC’s (permit to operate) are not issued. The point however is everyone is using those as the Trojan horse to get the ERC to act on the PSA’s pending that everyone is taking care not to mention that include the biggest pie which is the 3,551mw of Meralco contracts.

It appears all these threats are not snowing DOE Secretary’s team into restoring the guilty commissioners who have been bent on processing and approving the Meralcopowergen PSA’s specially the Atimonan One and the Redondo coal projects.

Let us breakdown the power supply projects that will be affected and not allow the campaign of the vested interests to get the plum which is the 3,551mw of Meralco, the caper that was mishandled at the ERC. The claimed 5,500mw of projects are actually built plants and needing only the issuance and renewals of their permits to operate.  This is a simple process of approval and almost ministerial in nature. These can easily be handled by OIC’s, even career directors at ERC.  If the DOE manages to get the President to appoint interim or emergency OIC’s enough to give the ERC the formality of a quorum those COC’s are easy to process. And hard to make mistakes on. They can even give automatic one year extensions given the circumstances in the public interest.

What can be worrisome at the DOE is the attempt of some parties to get Secretary Cusi to appoint the transition team at the PEMC who happen to be the same group that played a big part in the conundrum at the ERC. They are also known to be historically partial to the Meralco Cartel. The good Secretary may not be aware.

The media campaign to threaten the consumers and government officials with brownouts to get what they want is evident.  This time it is really to get the anomalous Meralco PSA’s processed. Remember that those projects if approved will not come on line until 2021 and will have no effect this summer and the next.

Talking about the Meralco Cartel’s PSA’s and the OMB findings on the ERC Commissioners, we don’t really know how things will unfold. Given our legal system and the resources behind the effort, the suspension will probably be challenged at the Court of Appeals and will end up at the Supreme Court.

The Threat of widespread brownouts is most likely part of the strategy to influence the higher Courts into stepping in “for the public interests”.

Meanwhile, the consumers could get screwed again.

Here we go again!

MatuwidnaSingilsaKuryente Consumer Alliance Inc.


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