PCC, Energy dep’t agree to cooperate in competition probes

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power line NGCP

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the Department of Energy (DoE) have signed an agreement that will allow for coordination in their power sector investigations.

In a statement Tuesday, the PCC said the memorandum of agreement allows for agency-to-agency information sharing, investigation support, technical audits, joint task forces, and continued capacity-building and consultation.

The deal also paves the way for the creation of a technical working group to coordinate investigative efforts into alleged collusion or the abuse of dominant position in the energy sector.

“The PCC and the DoE share a common vision of a more robust competition landscape in the power industry. With the energy department having the technical assets and ensuring proper functioning of the energy sector, we are confident this complementation of efforts with PCC’s own investigative capacity will lead to a stronger push for competition enforcement,” PCC Chair Arsenio M. Balisacan was quoted in a statement.

The deal comes following a series of power outages that hit several parts of Luzon earlier this year. The PCC said in April that it will look into allegations of possible collusion or abuse of dominant position by certain power generators.

The PCC and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) have been seeking ways to coordinate their efforts in competition investigations, with talks first surfacing in late 2016 when the anti-trust agency first looked into the possibility of anti-competitive practices playing a role in the power outages that struck several areas of the country that year.

Republic Act (RA) 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, authorizes the ERC to monitor and penalize market power abuse and/or anti-competitive or discriminatory behavior by any electric power industry participant.

Meanwhile, RA 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act (PCA) of 2015, empowers the PCC to implement a national competition policy and ensure the promotion and protection of the competitive market by prohibiting anti-competitive agreements, abuses of dominant positions, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

The Court of Appeals ruled on May 23, 2018 after Manila Electric Co. filed a petition questioning ERC’s jurisdiction over competition concerns related to the Malampaya shutdown in 2013, said the Competition law repeals Sections 43 and 45 of the EPIRA law, which gave ERC the power to resolve cases of anti-competitive behavior and other unfair trade practices in the energy sector.

Under the PCA, anticompetitive behavior or collusion are punishable with fines of up to P250 million, and imprisonment of responsible officers of up to seven years.

“Ensuring consumers are provided adequate supply of electricity on fair terms and prices, while allowing market players of all sizes to operate on a level playing field is at the center of our partnership,” the PCC’s Mr. Balisacan said. — Janina C. Lim