By Erick San Juan
Foreign investors seeking to engage business in the country are turned off by the high cost of electricity, a former senior official of Malacañang said on Friday.
Former Undersecretary Butch Junia of the Office of the Press Secretary said that the current power price put the Philippines in number two position among Asian countries next to Japan.
“If electricity rates will be lowered down, I am sure that investors who are hesitant to do business in the country will have no second thoughts and immediately look for a place they can put up their business,” Junia told newsmen at the weekly forum, Balitaan sa Hotel Rembrandt.
He said that lowering the electricity rate is to force Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to submit them into audit after Commission on Audit found that Manila Electric Company (Meralco) collected more than P3.7-billion from generation charge in the year 2004 and 2007.
The audit, he said, was ordered by the Supreme Court to monitor how big is the generation charges collected by Meralco on its end users.
“The ERC should initiate the move or any consumer group who will represent the Filipino people to submit to the High Tribunal the result of the audit,” Junia explained.
Aside from this, Junia said, Meralco collected from end users P123 billion and Meralco is now asking ERC to allow them to collect 15.5 percent of return on rate base (RORB) for the expansion and upgrading of their system.
“Remember that the funds they used to upgrade their facilities are people’s money which they collected before and now they are asking the ERC to allow them collect 15 percent from our money which they used. Isn’t it absurd?” Junia claimed.
When reporters asked Junia if it is high time to asked ERC chairperson Zenaida Ducut to resign, Junia was quick to say that the remedy that ERC can do to lower the rates of electricity is to use the money collected be deducted to end users.
According to Junia, “end users should not jump like chimpanzees after learning that Meralco is lowering the rate because they have robbed their customers billions of pesos.”
But ERC dismissed all of COA’s adverse findings on Meralco’s rates to its captive customers, specifically the overcharges amounting to P7 billion, an amount Nasecore actually computed at P15 billion and as much as P31 billion as reckoned from the petition of another consumer.
Apparently, the ERC dismissed these allegations, although they have yet to see the actual order of the Commission to know how the dismissals were justified, if at all.
If published statements attributed to ERC, notably Executive Director Francis Saturnino Juan, are to be given full credence, then the Commission is gravely mistaken in its appreciation of its rate-making powers under the power reform law or EPIRA or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.