ERC chief vows fairness in power collusion probe

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The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) gave assurances that it will be fair and transparent in its investigation into the alleged collusion among energy players that resulted in a spike in power rates in 2014.

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New ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said he will personally study the matter before making any decision.

“At least, what I can assure you is that I will personally study the case. I can assure you I would be fair and that my decision will be fair,” Salazar told reporters in a briefing.

Salazar said he will consider all the arguments and set aside all biases so that he can make a fair decision on the matter.

“I’ve always been known to be not just impartial but fair. I guess I’ve maintained that brand even when I was still in my previous agency,” he said.

Salazar was an undersecretary at the Department of Justice.

The ERC’s investigating unit (IU) has already submitted its report to the commission for further investigation. This came after it found probable cause to pursue the case before the commission, which will conduct a hearing to verify the findings.

The ERC’s Competition Rules provide that once the IU has completed its investigation and has written a final report, only then will such report be submitted to the commission en banc for its appropriate action.

Following its investigation, the IU found that 12 power players withheld power supply in December 2013 which led to the record-high increase in electricity rates at the time.

According to the IU report, these power players are state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), Pan-Asia Energy Holdings, ThermaMobile (TMO), CIP II Power Corp., Trans-Asia Power Corp., 1590 Bauang, AP Renewables, Udenna Management Resources Corp., Strategic Power, GNPower, SEM-Calaca, and Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor.

The investigating unit is comprised of ERC personnel whose functions include the investigation and prosecution of alleged violations under the supervision of an investigating officer.

ERC Commissioner Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc said all the parties were already provided with copies of the inquiry.

“They were also given the opportunity to submit their respective answers. We are just awaiting their answers,” Taruc said.

Once the board receives the parties’ answers, it will then conduct a conference.

Taruc added that they will also conduct a pre-hearing with all the respondents to determine the terms of reference of the case.

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