THE lameduck Aquino administration should stop making midnight deals that could potentially derail the governance of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
If we go by the past pronouncements of BS Aquino The Last, he should not find this a hard thing to do. During the 2010 election campaign, he warned then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo against midnight deals and vowed to review all big ticket projects she would approve in the “last two minutes” of her administration.
Now is the best time to remind him of his own words six years ago following valid concerns of his men’s burning the midnight oil to finalize deals in the last days of his administration.
In last Monday’s issue of the Manila Times, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda raged against the “midnight deal” hatched by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in splitting the planned PP170.7-billion, 653-kilometer railway project from Manila to Bicol into the Tutuban, Manila – Calamba, Laguna Railway Project and that from Calamba to Legazpi City, Albay.
Salceda, chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) and incoming Albay congressman, said RDC-Bicol opposes the splitting “since it favors the commuter railways by rewarding it with higher returns while the expenditure will essentially be reimbursed.”
“What is dismaying is that these changes are being made in the midnight of an outgoing DOTC. We oppose the sudden change in terms of reference, the lack of consultations with affected RDCs and the tasteless timing,” Salceda said in a Times report by Rhaydz Barcia.
Salceda is not alone in expressing concern over midnight deals.
Incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has already warned Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina against rushing the implementing rules and regulations of the newly signed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. Dominguez said he doesn’t want his hands tied in implementing the new law once he takes over the DOF, the mother agency of the Bureau of Customs.
Then, there’s the P4.5-billion budget of DOF for the construction of its new 20-story building along Roxas Blvd., and P2.68 billion for that of the National Economic Development Authority. Dominguez said the incoming administration will review these projects, including the bidding process.
“New offices are an example of skewed priorities when a lot of Yolanda survivors still don’t have a roof over their heads,” Dominguez said in a report written by Times business reporter Mayvelin Caraballo.
Another controversy is the issuance by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of resolutions during what Philippine STAR columnist Mary Ann Reyes described as “the final days of the Aquino administration.” Meralco sought a court restraining order on the resolutions’ implementation, claiming they violate the Electric Power Industry Reform Act that gives distributors the right to engage in the business of supplying electricity to the contestable consumer, the group that the ERC has allowed to choose their electricity suppliers.
The resolutions on Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) progressively lower the average electricity usage of contestable costumers from the present one MW per month to 500kW after June 2018. Meralco said cost-efficient retail electricity suppliers would be barred from supplying those consuming at least one MW once the cap is reached.
Manila Times business columnist Ben Kritz backs the ERC’s resolutions on RCOA. He said that nothing about the RCOA diminishes Meralco’s access to the market.
“All it does is remove Meralco’s franchise-based monopoly and forces the company to compete with other suppliers,” Kritz maintained.
The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) headed by Jesus Lim Carranza has a contrary view, saying the RCOA implementation “runs counter to the spirit of free market and competitive environment as espoused by the Epira.”
FPI warned that with more customers becoming part of the contestable market, they will be at the mercy of the few remaining suppliers.
“If companies were not able to source the cheapest power rates, these new rules would severely hurt local manufacturers as prices may potentially pick up,” FPI said.
The industry group added that most of the manufacturers might pass the higher cost of their production to customers by increasing the price of their goods, “which can impair their competitiveness under the regime of Asean Economic Community integration.”
With the ongoing debate on whether the RCOA is deleterious or beneficial to consumers, it’s best for the lameduck administration to allow the next President to make a more detailed study and rational decision.
Only 15 days are left before BS Aquino The Last bows out of office. He should stop all midnight deals and leave quietly – but not like a thief – in the night.