Consumer groups expressed contrasting views on the proposal to return to government control the Luzon grid, currently managed by National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).
Kuryente.org, a consumer advocacy group focusing on energy issues, said it was against the proposal, citing the possibility of monopoly and increased government debt.
"We believe the government should not be involved in the energy sector anymore. We've tried with Napocor (National Power Corp.) as the monopoly before, it resulted in trillions in debt which we are still paying up to now. Let's not let history repeat itself," Nic Satur Jr., national coordinator of Kuryente.org, told The Manila Times.
Satur instead proposed a review of the NGCP's current ownership structure and concession agreement similar to how the government reviewed erroneous provisions in the Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. franchises
"It's obvious misunderstanding of its role during this red alert crisis is proof enough that we need to review its franchise."
Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) said the ultimate goal was better power supply regardless of who is in charge of the Luzon grid.
"Our concern as consumers - are the power rates better now and will be better under the proposed policy changes? Are supply adequate now and will be much adequate in the future?" said lawyer Vic Dimagiba, LKI president.
Dimagiba said LKI's concern was for the government to provide consumers with a stable power supply at the least cost.
He said any policy changes should be left to the decision of congress and the executive branch.
"When there are legal issues such as the validity of the NGCP franchise, then the courts can adjudicate as per law," Dimagiba said.
During a Senate inquiry on recent rotating brownouts in Metro Manila, the Department of Energy (DoE) proposed the amendment of the legislative franchise of the NGCP and the return to government control of the Luzon grid, citing power distribution and cybersecurity concerns.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and other DoE officials identified several instances wherein the NGCP failed to comply with government policies that would ensure steady power supply.
"The NGCP only enjoys the benefits granted by its franchise. What we have right now is not a power crisis but a compliance issue," Cusi said during the hearing.
Sen. Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros backed the DoE's proposal, saying that the privatization of energy supply management has not solved the country's energy woes, considering the existence of rotating brownouts and the high cost of electricity.
The NGCP declared a red alert on June 1, after power generation capacity in Luzon registered a total of 11,729 megawatts in contrast to the demand that was estimated to have peaked at 11,514 MW. The inadequate power generation resulted in rotating power interruption in some parts of Luzon.