PCC checks for collusion in power sector

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power line Transco NGCP

THE PHILIPPINE Competition Commission (PCC) will check allegations of collusion among power plant operators amid recent outages “that may have contributed to price increases in the retail electricity market,” the watchdog said in a press release on Monday.

“The recent spate of scheduled and forced outages in Luzon by different power plants has reportedly reduced power reserves, caused calls for red or yellow alerts, and induced rotating brownouts, which in turn sparked complaints from the public,” the PCC said.

“The PCC shall assess whether the recent power plants’ outages are manipulated to increase electricity prices or are valid unplanned breakdowns that affect supply conditions.”

In a mobile phone message, PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan clarified that the watchdog was “looking into the recent series of shutdowns and assessing if it merits an investigation.”

Sought for comment, Emmanuel V. Rubio, chief operating officer of Aboitiz Power Corp., said he was not aware of such an issue, while senior officials of other firms involved such as TeaM Energy Corp. and South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. did not respond to requests for comment.

“The PCC warns power generation companies from engaging in anti-competitive or collusive behavior which is punishable under the competition law with fines of up to P250 million and imprisonment of responsible officers of up to seven years,” the statement read, referring to Republic Act No. 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act.

The PCC also said it welcomes technical reports or audits by the Department of Energy, as well as any lead or information from the public or experts in the field.

“We look forward to the report that DoE will send us as it will help with our assessment,” Mr. Balisacan said of the Department of Energy. “The DoE has previously referred a similar matter to the PCC and that is being treated as a separate investigation.”

The PCC said it is talking with DoE and the Energy Regulatory Comm ission for a memorandum of agreement “to facilitate market competition and investigations in the power sector.” — Janina C. Lim