'If I were Ducut, I would have resigned' – Belmonte
MANILA, Philippines – Short of calling for the resignation of embattled Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair Zenaida Ducut, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said he would have resigned if he were in her position.
Ducut, a former Pampanga congresswoman, approved the application of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to increase its electricity charges starting last December, thus burdening consumers.
The rate hike has been stopped by the Supreme Court, as the tribunal and both chambers of Congress are hearing complaints of possible collusion between power suppliers and Meralco, the distributor.
"If I were in the shoes of Ducut I would have resigned, I’ll tell you that," Belmonte told reporters on Thursday, January 23.
Why would he quit if he were at ERC? "It is on my watch that all of these happened. Remember, it was after it (price hike) had been announced that they (Meralco) sought her (Ducut) okay. It is as if it's a foregone conclusion that she would say yes," Belmonte said.
Calls for Ducut's resignation mounted after the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, and the Senate held back-to-back hearings on Meralco's inflated charges when its primary source, the Malampaya gas field, was shut down for maintenance. (READ: Remove Ducut, Aquino asked)
The SC petitioner, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, accused Meralco of colluding with other players in the industry to jack up the prices in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). (READ: How WESM affects your electricity bill)
Meralco admitted that it instructed its supplier Therma Mobile Incorporated of the Aboitiz Group to sell in the spot market at P62 per kilowatt hour. It was supposed to be a strategy to make sure there will be no takers and Therma Mobile can save its supply for Meralco. (Power producers were required to sell at the spot market during the Malampaya shutdown.)
The so-called strategy did not work, however. Therma Mobile's offer was triggered and its price jacked up power rates. (READ: Meralco: We did not mean to inflate charges)
Ducut told the House committee on energy that ERC has only 4 dedicated personnel monitoring the electricity spot market. – Rappler.com