ERC halves caseload of power co-ops late in paying fees

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THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has closed more than two dozen pending cases against electric cooperatives for late or non-payment of supervision and regulation fees.

The commission’s caseload of such violations has thereby been reduced by half.

The ERC’s Item IV of Resolution No. 21, Series of 2007, calls for the payment of supervision and regulation fees by cooperatives.

The fees represent the annual reimbursement of the expenses incurred by the ERC in the supervision of electric utilities, transmission companies and/or in the regulation or fixing of their rates.

“The said fees shall be paid on or before September 30th of each year with a penalty of fifty per centum in cases of delinquency. Provided, further, that if the fees or any balance thereof are not paid within sixty days from the said date, the penalty shall be increased one per centum for each month of delinquency thereafter,” Item IV states.

The issue for resolution by the commission involve whether or not the electric utilities should be held administratively liable under the guidelines to govern the imposition of administrative sanctions in the form of fines and penalties pursuant to Section 46 of Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), as amended.

Also at issue is whether criminal action should be instituted against the utilities’ directors and officers for the non-payment of penalties.

In many of the cases, ERC records showed the utilities paid their remaining penalties before the issuance of their show-cause orders.

In some, the ERC noted that while strict application of its rule holds an electric cooperative administratively liable, the commission, employing its full discretion, found it just and fair to exercise leniency in its judgment.

For instance, compliance within a month from receipt of the show-cause order or merely two days from the lapse of the 15-day period to explain, was taken to mean that the electric utility did not intend to defy the rules and regulations of the ERC.

In some cases, the regulator warned that similar acts in the future “shall be dealt with more severely.”

The termination of the cases was signed by Agnes VST Devanadera, ERC chairperson and chief executive officer. — Victor V. Saulon