THE Supreme Court (SC) is likely to extend the temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) from collecting the record P4.15 per kilowatt-hour increase approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) late last year, a court insider said on Monday.
The TRO expires today.
If the magistrates of the High Court vote against the power utility firm, it will be the second time the order will be extended. The TRO, issued on December 23, 2013, was extended for 60 days when it expired in February.
According to the source, the justices will deliberate on the extension of the TRO during their en banc session today in Baguio City. But the source said a recommendation should first be made by the ponente of the case, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
“Leonen shall make the recommendations for the TRO extension and the en banc will decide,” he told The Manila Times.
“It will be a tough debate [for the]duration [of the]TRO,” the source said.
But even if the SC decides not to extend the TRO, it will take time before Meralco can collect the power rate increase, according to the ERC.
“Assuming there will be no more extension on the TRO, Meralco can’t immediately charge consumers the December rate,” Francis Saturnino Juan, executive director of the ERC, said in a phone interview.
He explained that once the TRO is lifted, the ERC will order the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), the operator of the country’s spot market, to recalculate again the new WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) charges for the November supply month.
The ERC previously ordered the recalculation of the November rates after it discovered that power generators manipulated prices in the market by not offering their full capacities, hence, the surge in Meralco’s generation charge.
“This will all go through a process. If PEMC is done with its recalculation, Meralco can now recalculate the adjustments. Once they have done that, they will have to file with the ERC a petition if they still intend to recover anything,” Juan said.
An official of the power utility company agreed that the lifting of the TRO will not lead to the automatic imposition of higher generation charges.
“Meralco shall await the new rate from PEMC and shall file with ERC the appropriate application for the reduced December generation charge,” Meralco Utility Economics Head Lawrence Fernandez said.
Last week, the groups who questioned the Meralco rate hike asked the SC to extend the TRO.