The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Thursday said it could issue a decision next year on the alleged collusion among power companies that resulted in a spike in electricity rates in 2014.
ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said a group of “solicitors” from the Office of the General Counsel & Secretariat (OGCS) was tasked to investigate the matter and present evidence before the Commission.
In order to make the prosecution independent, Salazar said they have appointed solicitors.
“The solicitors will present evidence before us, the other side can present controverting evidence. We can consolidate all these,” he told reporters in a briefing.
Decisions will be based on the pieces of evidence that will be presented to them by the prosecutors.
“Hopefully, we can finish by next year,” he said.
Salazar said the solicitors are now undergoing training to get themselves acquainted with the industry.
“We provided training for them, we already have four so far. Our solicitors are very intelligent, they are very bright but they lack the capacity in terms of understanding the industry,” he added.
The ERC Investigating Unit has already submitted its report to the commission. 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 unit has completed its investigation and come up with a final report, only then will such report be submitted to the commission en banc for appropriate action.
The IU found that 12 power players withheld power supply in December 2013, leading to the record-high increase in electricity rates at that time.
The report claimed the power players include state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), Pan-Asia Energy Holdings, ThermaMobile, 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 comprises ERC personnel whose functions include the investigation and prosecution of alleged violations and is under the supervision of an investigating officer.