Major consumer groups and a non-government organization (NGO) on Friday hailed a recent temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC) against mandatory power supply contracts.
They said the TRO against a controversial policy of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) represented a victory for consumers.
“This [decision]shows that there is multisectoral opposition to the ERC’s new policy. Faced with [this]unrealistic and anti-consumer policy, business groups, academic institutions, consumers and civil society must continue to rally together and have their voices heard,” Pet Climaco, secretary general of the NGO Bantay Kuryente (Electricity Watch), said.
The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and San Beda College Alabang also expressed satisfaction and relief over the High Court’s recent ruling imposing the TRO on the ERC policy that they said affects retail competition and open access.
In a joint statement, the two higher education institutions said they are encouraged that their joint petition has been declared by the tribunal as successfully establishing a clear, legal right to the TRO, as they seek to uphold the spirit of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which protects the freedom and the rights of all power consumers.
“The ADMU believes that our government and ruling bodies should ultimately seek to protect our basic, constitutional right to freedom of choice. And this right should extend to all electricity consumers. If we are allowed to choose the best supplier for our needs in a market that is allowed to work freely and for the common good, then such a scenario will be most beneficial to all consumers concerned, especially those smaller scale contestable customers like schools and universities that may have a difficult time searching for a new contract,” Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ., president of Ateneo de Manila University, said.
“This recent temporary restraining order is an encouraging development toward preserving the right of every Filipino to choose freely, and we hope that this [TRO] paves the way to a more progressive power industry and a safer economic environment for the academe,” Villarin added.
The academic community has raised concern regarding an originally proposed deadline by the ERC and the Department of Energy (DOE), and the additional premium that it has to pay if the deadline is not met.
“Admittedly, it would be very difficult for academic establishments like San Beda College Alabang to meet the proposed deadline of the ERC and the DOE of February 26, 2017 forcing customers to enter into new retail supply contracts or otherwise suffer the consequence of being disconnected from the distribution utility or being made to pay a supplier of last resort a 10 percent premium between the higher contract cost and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market,” Fr. Aelred Nilo, director for finance, administration and general services of San Beda College Alabang, said.
In a forum last year, licensed suppliers that were handpicked by the ERC were being selective with their offers and would not even call customers if their load factors were deemed too low.
University of Santo Tomas head of Electrical Engineering Oliver Gagarin said no retail electricity suppliers accredited by the regulatory commission approached them.
“We have a very low load factor. [We are not] attractive to retail electricity suppliers,” Gagarin noted.
NEIL A. ALCOBER