The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) today trooped to the office of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and urged the agency to revoke its July 6 and August 30 decisions that are paving the way for unabated electricity price increases in Luzon.

“ERC should punish the erring parties, not the consumers,” said the advocacy group, in a statement.  “Because of these decisions, electricity consumers whose electricity also comes from the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) would be shouldering an additional P2.60/kWh in their next billing statements.”

In its July 6 decision, the ERC cleared the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) of price manipulation and market-power abuse during the questioned September and October months last year.

In reaction, FDC, together with the Philippine Electricity Governance Initiative (PEGI), issued a position paper to ERC Chair Rodolfo Albano. The two groups rejected the regulatory body’s findings that no price-fixing took place in WESM.

“The ERC’s decision, far from closing the case, in fact raises more questions. Who is the ERC protecting, and why? Certainly not the public interest,” said the two groups.

The ERC executive never replied to the issues and concerns they had raised, the FDC said.

In its August 30 decision, ERC ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to reinstate the effective settlement prices at WESM last year.  It means the actual and resulting settlement for these periods should be applied.

FDC said that aside from paying higher for their electricity consumption due to recoveries of WESM, the poor electricity customers would be further burdened by an expected increase in basic commodities and other services with industry players also bearing an additional increase in their operational costs due to rise in electricity rates.

“Besides killing small industries, the ERC decision would give further reason for big industries to hike prices of their goods as they tend to pass on the additional electricity charge to their customers,” it said.

FDC said the ERC should at the minimum, protect the welfare of the electricity consumers in the country and ensure that the government’s promise of lower electricity rates is fulfilled.

“What we need is a stronger regulatory mechanism and body that would protect the people from abusive industry players.  The ERC should do its job by not merely approving petitions or awaiting things to happen at the expense of the consumers,” it said.

FDC demanded that the ERC and the Joint Congressional Power Commission conduct a transparent, competent, and comprehensive investigation to come up with a just decision that would hold the erring parties accountable and protect the public from market abuses. ###

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