Energy Regulatory Commission

[OPINION] An open letter to the new ERC commissioners

Jaydar Medrozo
[OPINION] An open letter to the new ERC commissioners
'As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, the last thing we need are questionable electricity bills and an ERC who will not stand up for us'

Last Monday, it was announced that Malacanang made two new appointments that will affect the daily lives of 110 million Filipinos. President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed long-serving ERC director and spokesperson Atty. Floresinda G. Baldo-Digal and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Marco Romeo Lizada Fuentes, replacing outgoing Commissioners Josefina Patricia Asirit and Paul Christian Cervantes, and as a consumer, I have a few things to say.

Why should we take interest in Duterte’s new appointments? The ERC was created to regulate the electricity industry and ensure that our interests as consumers are protected by any abuse or political and industry dynamics. They ensure the price of electricity is fair, and that power generators and distribution utilities will not be abused.

As a consumer, I hope Commissioner Digal and Commissioner Fuentes will take those roles to heart, and at this critical time, we need commissioners who can and will protect the welfare of the people and the economy above all. (READ: Rappler Talk: Coronavirus and the economy)

Currently, the five-member commission is chaired by Agnes Devanadera, who was former Justice secretary. She is joined by commissioner Catherina Maceda, a known renewable energy advocate, and commissioner Alexis Lumbatan who was a Davao-based lawyer and former board member of Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.  

The new ERC appointments are critical especially now that millions of Filipinos are jobless and businesses have been shuttered because of COVID-19. I am happy that the President has appointed the right people in the Commission. Digal’s deep knowledge of the energy industry, being someone rising from the ranks within ERC, is an advantage, but we should not let our guards down.

Truth be told, the ERC needs a lot of help in implementing its mandate. Instead of focusing on bringing food to our tables, Filipino families need to realign our meager budget to make sure we can pay for electricity. As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, the last thing we need are questionable electricity bills and an ERC who will not stand up for us. 

The incoming ERC commissioners will play a vital role in protecting our rights as consumers. They will be our watchdog for any violations that the industry players may commit and ensure that the cost of electricity from distribution companies like Meralco is fair. The president should appoint commissioners who are dependable and have a deep understanding about the power and electricity sector. The commissioners should be experts so they can make well-informed and sound decisions. They should fix the issue on high costs of electricity, and look into the alleged anti-competitive practices of some industry players in the energy sector.

The ERC also needs to ensure that distribution utilities like Meralco will adhere to the rules and regulations for the public’s interest. During the Senate committee on energy hearing last July 6, ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera mentioned that there are thousands of complaints from consumers regarding their high electricity bills. When the ERC asked Meralco to explain the high electricity bills and why they should not be penalized for its violation, Meralco promised to send letters to its 6.5 million consumers explaining their estimated consumptions. (READ: [OPINION] A crossroads for Meralco)

Apologies are cheap, but we, the struggling middle class, need more than that. It’s time our energy regulator does its job in regulating the industry. Competent, strong, and uncompromised commissioners will be critical to protecting the interests of consumers and the economy. 

As consumers, we are pushed against the wall. We need to participate and take an active interest in the energy sector to make sure that our needs are addressed and our demands heard and considered. As happy as I am right now with the appointment, I am hoping that the new commissioners are strong-willed, independent, and will stand for consumer rights.

After all, we are the ones paying the bills. I am making my stand, as a consumer who carries no agenda but that of my own family’s survival. I am putting this out as a challenge to Commissioner Digal and Commissioner Fuentes – stand up and defend consumer rights. – Rappler.com

Jaydar Medrozo is an activist and a father based in Cebu City.

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