BAYAN MUNA: ERC execs gave special treatment to Meralco-affiliated gencos
Another questionable Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) action has surfaced over the agency’s decision to accept past deadline time seven big and controversial power supply agreements that Manila Electric Company (Meralco) awarded without bidding to favoured power generation companies (gencos).
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that the ERC’s decision in effect accommodated Meralco’s rush to beat the deadline before the start of ERC’s competitive selection process (CSP), an ERC program that would have forced Meralco to bid out the contracts in order to get the least cost of electricity for millions of its customers.
During the Sept. 26 continuation of the House of Representatives inquiry into the alleged irregularities at the ERC, officials of the agency contradicted themselves and grappled for an explanation to justify their decision to accept Meralco’s PSA applications past the ERC’s very own deadline posted in its website.
Rep. Zarate at the last hearing elicited a confirmation from ERC Commissioner Josefina Patricia M. Asirit that the ERC did issue an advisory specifically setting the deadline for filing of PSAs not covered by CSP. The deadline was set “before the close of the business hours (i.e. 5:00 PM) on 29 April 2016.” The advisory added that “afterwards, no PSA filed with the ERC will be docketed unless it has undergone CSP.”
Notwithstanding the advisory, three of the Meralco PSAs were filed and docketed between 5:30 p.m. to 7:25 p.m. of April 29, 2016; while the four other PSAs did not have a time stamp at all.
Rep. Zarate believes seven of the PSAs are sweetheart deals, because in an earlier hearing, it was learned that the six contracted gencos are either controlled or affiliated with Meralco. The seven PSAs, costing Meralco customers over P2 trillion, call for the supply to Meralco of 3,551 megawatts of electricity for 20 to 21 years.
But Ellen Ebcas, an ERC director explained that the ERC Commission en banc, upon her request for clarification, came out with a ruling that the 5 p.m. deadline would be reckoned not by the time of docketing but “by the time of the arrival of the applicant at the ground floor of the ERC building.” Ebcas said she sought the clarification after noting the heavy volume of PSA applications near or during the deadline.
Based on this ruling, which was allegedly taken up during a Commission meeting, all seven Meralco PSAs beat the deadline, because they all reached Ebcas in the early afternoon of April 29. But when Zarate asked for a copy of the ruling, Ebcas expressed uncertainty if the transcript of the alleged meeting included the ruling. Asirit for her part said she could not recall if such a meeting took place or if such matter was taken up.
The contradicting answers reinforced Rep. Zarate’s suspicion that ERC officials are trying to make flimsy excuses to justify the special treatment accorded to Meralco.
“It’s clear ERC gave Meralco special treatment, because ERC accepted the PSAs although it was past the deadline set under the advisory. In a basketball game, it was like the ERC as referee allowed players from a favored team to continue shooting and scoring after the buzzer sounded to signal the end of one game," ended Rep.Zarate. ###