The House committees on government reorganization and energy initially discussed House Bill 5020 seeking the abolition of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and replacing it with the Board of Energy (BoE) as an attached unit of the Department of Energy (DoE).
During the hearing, ERC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Agnes Devanadera agreed with the view of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the author of the bill, on the need to create a system of effective accountability and ensure the protection of the interests of the government and the public.
The Speaker said his proposal will ensure the new Board of Energy shall be explicitly within the regulatory arm of the government and, specifically, within the direct control and supervision of the President.
The bill provides for the creation of a quasi-judicial regulatory body to be named as the Board of Energy. The Board shall be under the control and supervision of the DoE, and shall be composed of a chairperson and two members to be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Energy.
The Board shall be assisted by such technical and supportive staff as the chairman may appoint for the effective, efficient, and economical discharge of its powers and functions. The existing ERC shall hereby be abolished, and the Board shall hereby perform the functions of the ERC in so far as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the proposed Act.
The Speaker filed the bill after the ERC was marred with controversies of alleged corruption, specifically with regard to shady deals and improper procurement practices.
In filing the bill, the Speaker said the integrity of ERC became suspicious and questionable after ERC Director Francisco Jose Villa, Jr. took his own life on November 9, 2017, leaving behind letters which exposed alleged anomalies and irregularities within the agency. It was reported that he was pressured to sign anomalous transactions which he refused.
The ERC was created under Republic Act No. 9316, otherwise known as the “Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001,” whose primary mandate is to regulate the country’s electric industry, promote competition in the electricity market, and protect power consumers from the high costs of electricity.
Prior to Villa’s suicide, President Rodrigo Duterte sacked ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar on October 2017 when the Ombudsman found him guilty of administrative offenses, for allegedly manipulating the procurement of small ERC contracts. The Ombudsman likewise required him to pay a fine equivalent to six months’ salary.
The President on November 22, 2017 replaced Salazar with Devanadera with a term up to July 10, 2022.
Another controversy hit ERC in December last year when the Ombudsman ordered the one-year suspension of all four commissioners of the ERC for allowing electric utilities like Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to forgo the bidding of their power supply requirements at the public’s expense.
Suspended were Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpala-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana, who were all found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty.
Manalo, C. V. (February 2, 2018). House panels move to abolish ERC and replace it with BoE. the Daily Tribune. Retrieved from http://tribune.net.ph/metro/house-panels-move-to-abolish-erc-and-replace-it-with-boe