President Rodrigo Duterte has been urged to appoint temporary commissioners for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to avoid a power vacuum within its management and to ensure there will be no power interruptions throughout the Philippines, a Department of Energy (DoE) official said on Wednesday.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi “wrote a letter to the Office of the President [OP] to look into the possibility of appointing temporary commissioners,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said in a chance interview after a DoE news briefing on the new excise tax on petroleum products.
The Office of the Ombudsman suspended former ERC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jose Vicente Salazar and ERC commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Santa Ana for one year without pay as they were found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Its ruling stemmed from allegations that they had given undue favor to Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and its sister companies by exempting the entities from the competitive selection process (CSP) in 2016.
When asked about the content of the letter, Fuentebella only said Cusi did not provide any recommendation but he presumed “it’s a general letter to address it immediately.”
The letter was submitted after the suspension of the ERC commissioners in December last year.
The DoE has a pending request with the Office of the President to put the ERC under its administrative supervision to ensure “what we are doing are aligned.”
Cusi previously said he asked Duterte to subject the power regulator to administrative oversight but the President is yet to respond to his letter.
Fuentebella said Cusi is ensuring that there will be no power interruptions across the country, despite pending cases and applications before the ERC, assuring everybody in the department is doing everything it can.
Aside from looking at its legal implications, the DoE is shoring up the country’s power reserves through its Power Development Plan 2016-2040 and introducing various rules such as the Renewable Portfolio Standards, Net Metering and Green Energy Option Program “so that we can have additional supply and more efficiency in the utilization of energy.”
Previously, Malacañang allayed fears that the suspension of the four ERC commissioners would paralyze the power regulator and result in blackouts.
In a radio interview, its spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday that the government was studying how to avert disruption of operations in the ERC, which is responsible for ensuring reasonable electricity prices and cultivating competition within the nation’s power industry.
Roque assured the public that the President would do something to avert a paralysis in the energy sector.