THE SENATE will scrutinize the operations of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in its upcoming budget hearings in Congress due to the delays in its approval of petitions filed since 2015 by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp.
The PSALM said during Monday’s hearing by the Senate committee on energy that delays in ERC approval of its petitions have led to an additional P34.78 billion shouldered by consumers, equivalent to a power rate increase of P0.193 per kWh.
Under Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), PSALM is allowed to collect the charges from electricity consumers. It seeks approval from the ERC for the monthly amount to be charged.
Asked to explain, ERC Energy Regulation chief Alvin Jones Ortega said the agency has been following due process on the applications filed in their office. ERC’s lawyer Krisha Buela also pointed out that the regulatory agency was already reviewing its procedures to fast-track the pending applications.
“(The ERC) should improve its process. This coming budget season, of course we will see what happens in their operations. Every delay has costs. And those costs are being passed to consumers,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the committee, told reporters after the Senate hearing.
On another matter, the senator also sees the bill allocating the P204-billion Malampaya funds to cover universal charge as the fastest and simplest measure of reducing the cost of electricity rates in the country.
“Over the last two years, this committee has been looking for ways in reducing our electricity bills. We’ve been tackling different measures to effectively reduce the amount that our consumers pay on their electricity bill,” said Mr. Gatchalian.
“After a thorough study on the various bills being proposed in the Senate, the chair (sees) that this bill is one of the fastest, one of the simplest and one of the clearest ways of reducing our electricity bill,” he added.
Senate Bill No. 924 or the proposed Cheaper Electricity Bill Act, filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto in 2016, seeks to allocate the net national government share from the Malampaya natural gas project for the payment of the stranded contract costs (SCC) and stranded debts (SD) of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).
The bill also directs the Malampaya funds to be remitted to a “Special Trust Fund” to be administered by PSALM.
Based on the computations by PSALM, applying the P204-billion Malampaya fund would avoid an increase of P0.874 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in retail power rates. This would result in annual savings of P2,033.76 for an average household consuming 200 kWh monthly.
Mr. Gatchalian said the committee is now studying the proposed measure on precisely how much of the remaining Malampaya funds should applied for the purpose.
The Malampaya project is a joint undertaking of the national government and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. on behalf of joint venture partners Chevron Malampaya LLC and PNOC Exploration Corp. The gas find is expected to run out around 2022 to 2024. — Camille A. Aguinaldo