THE country’s highest court has granted the petition of Cathay Pacific Steel Corp. for National Power Corp. (Napocor) to refund P24.6-million worth of unapplied electricity rate discounts since 2002.

In its decision dated May 4 and published on June 21, the Supreme Court (SC) said the Commission on Audit (CoA) “committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction when it dismissed outright the money claim of [Cathay Pacific Steel].”

On May 27, 2010, the commission sided with Napocor and dismissed the petition of Cathay Pacific Steel for a refund as it held that the 2010 decision of the Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruling affirmed the decisions of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in 2006 and 2009 to grant Cathay Pacific Steel a refund, but did not specify the amount to be refunded.

The SC, however, proved the claim to be untrue and said that even if the rulings of the ERC and the appellate court failed to specify the amount in question, the CoA can easily determine the amount from the case records.

“Significantly, [the commission] has the authority to grant money claims not only for liquidated amounts, but also for those which are readily determinable,” it explained.

In 2002, then-Philippine President Gloria M. Arroyo ordered producers and distributors of electricity “to give price incentives to large electricity users so that excess power can be utilized, economic activity can be encouraged, and jobs can be created.”

The project was headed by the ERC, which then adopted the Special Program to Enhance Electricity Demand that offered existing power plants a discount of P0.8 per kilowatt hour (kwh) and tasked Napocor to implement the program.

However, the ERC found out that Napocor started to implement the program only in January 2003 instead of Oct. 26, 2002. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago