June 19, 2018
Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) laments suspension of ERC members, fears further inaction on issues of validity of 2016 and 2017 Feed ?in-Tariff Allowance
In a statement, Laban Konsyumer Inc., thru Atty. Victorio A. Dimagiba, stated that he and his consumer group lament that ?the suspension of ERC members will further exacerbate the Feed-in-Tariff Allowance ( Fit ?All ) burden on consumers and put further roadblocks on the petitions to annul unjustified Fit-All approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), in the past two years, both in 2016 and 2017.?
It was reported that the four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials earlier suspended have been slapped with another suspension order by the Office of the Ombudsman. ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana, who were able to return to their posts after securing a temporary restraining order and injunctions from the Court of Appeals (CA) on the one-year suspension order earlier this year, will now have to again vacate their post. And LKI believes this next round of suspension will delay proper action on Fit-All and force consumers to continue to carry the burden of higher power rates brought about by Fit-All.
Dimagiba continued expressing his overwhleming concern over the new suspension of the ERC officials by saying that ?we truly hope that the suspension will not affect the issue on Fit-All, which is actually also a more pressing concern. We recognize the need to rationalize the issue on the bill deposit and LKI stands with what is best for consumers, but we hope we do not lose focus on an equally, or even more pressing matter which is Fit-All.?
Recently, Laban Konsyumer Inc., thru Atty. Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, moved for the reconsideration of the Decision of the Honorable Commission dated 27 February 2018 on the increase of price in Fit-All. In its motion, LKI stated that ?the assailed Decision is null and void and without legal effect as it violates the basic and cardinal principle of the first rights guaranteed in our Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution (Sec. 1, Article III), which mandates that: ?(n) no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law.?
Dimagiba went on to say that ?Aside from being void ab initio and without legal effect, the assailed Decision must be reconsidered because it granted a higher FIT-All rate of PhP0.2563/kWh despite the applicant National Transmission Corporation?s (?TRANSCO?) prayer for the approval of a FIT-All rate of PhP0.2291/kWh, which is an act of grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of this Honorable Commission.?
He also stated that ?it is evident that TRANSCO failed to comply with the notice and republication requirements of the Commission when it recalculated and asked (during the expository presentation of the present case) for a higher FIT-All rate of PhP0.2481/kWh. Such recomputation should have been republished as it was a substantial change to the application filed by TRANSCO.?
In the motion, the group concluded by saying ?LKI is not asking this Honorable Commission to act beyond what is mandated under the Renewable Energy Law (R.A. No. 9513) or the FIT Rules that it promulgated. As much as LKI would want to disagree with the purpose, means and rationale of the said law and regulation, it cannot raise it here because it is not the proper forum to do so. Truth be told, LKI is not arguing that the FIT-All rate should be disregarded, only that it be determined in a certain manner ? a manner that upholds and respects the constitutional right to due process of every electricity consuming public in this country.?
Dimagiba clarified that ?What LKI finds erroneous is the manner by which this Honorable Commission disregarded its own pronouncements of protecting the consumers from rate applications that fail to comply with due process requirements and then, itself violating the said due process requirements that it espoused when it issued the assailed Decision.?
In a previous statement, PRO-CONSUMER advocacy group, Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) recently criticized the recent Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) decision on the National Transmission Corporation?s (TRANSCO?s) application for approval for the Feed-In Tariff Allowance (FIT-All) for Calendar Year 2017 pursuant to the guidelines for the collection of the FIT-All and the disbursement of the FIT-All fund, increasing the FIT-All rate from P0.1830 to P0.2563 per kWh, which will be implemented starting June 2018 billings.
In an Energy Regulatory Commission?s (ERC) Decision dated 27 February, it was stated that: ?WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the Commission hereby authorizes the National Transmission Corporation (TRANSCO) to collect the Feed-In Tariff Allowance equivalent to PhP0.2563/kWh, which is equivalent to PhP0.0733/kWh increase from the current PhP0.1830/kWh FIT-All rate, as its 2017 FIT-All rate, under ERC Case Number 2016-192 RC, In the Matter of the Application for the Approval of the Feed-In Tariff Allowance for the Calendar Year 2017 pursuant to the Guidelines for the Collection of the Feed-In Tariff Allowance and Disbursement of the Feed-In Tariff Fund, with Prayer for Provisional Authority.?
LKI President and former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Atty. Vic Dimagiba expressed concern over the decision and reiterated his group?s prior petitions to revert the FIT-All, and reminded the ERC of its mandate to protect consumer welfare, while also demanding that ?ERC should not be ruling on any further rate increases in FIT-All, and the Commission should render null and void its decision in the application for an increase in FIT-All. Because of this increase, consumers will have to brace for an increase in their electricity bills starting June, and this will only add to their already ongoing suffering from TRAIN.?
LKI voiced out its concern for Filipino consumers, saying that ?consumers are already overburdened with rising fuel costs, as well as the rise of prices of rice, noodles and other basic commodities. Though sometimes we are welcomed by news such as lower electricity rates this month of June and even last month May as announced by Meralco, looking at the bigger picture, prices of most products, goods and services have been skyrocketing, especially with the implementation of the TRAIN law.?
Dimagiba criticized the approved increase as anti-consumer, and declared it should be null and void, saying that LKI will continue to oppose the merit of FIT-All, and reinforced this by saying ?our consumer group has been actively working to protect the rights of consumers and ensuring that their welfare is of utmost priority in the eyes of government, regulators and private corporations. The increase in FIT-All will only exacerbate the already difficult situation that our fellow Filipino consumers are experiencing, with prices everywhere going up.?
LKI questioned the haste in issuing the decision, asking why higher fees are being paid to TRANSCO, when in fact there are ongoing petitions for smaller or removal of FIT-All.
Dimagiba went on to say that ?through the ERC, we are urging TRANSCO to not collect any further charges from the Filipino consumer, which will add to their burden and cost of living, while the legality of FIT-All is still pending. We call for a total hold on all Fit-All collection by TRANSCO from the consumers, and a stop to the payment to generation companies that benefit from these charges.?
In fact, LKI already earlier asked the ERC to render null and void its decision to increase FIT-All rates for 2016. Citing records, Dimagiba reminded that ?TRANSCO applied for a FIT-All for 2016 of 10.25 centavos per kWh. In February 2016 the ERC provisionally approved a FIT-All rate of 12.40 centavos per kWh. Three months later, the ERC granted an additional amount of 5.9 centavos per kWh, bringing the total Fit-All rate for 2016 to 18.30 centavos per kWh.?
Dimagiba argued that TRANSCO did not file for an amendment of its 2016 FIT-All rate application, thus asking the ERC then to render its May 2017 decision null and void for lack of jurisdiction. The 2016 petition to annul judgment was recently given due course by the ERC after the Court of Appeals had issued an injunction on their one year suspension .
?He also stated that ?TRANSCO lawyers filed an urgent motion to issue the decision on its 2017 FIT-All rate application on April 11, yet the decision of the ERC was dated February 27, but docketed and published on May 11.? And interestingly , the Ombudsman 3 months suspension was dated May 18, 2018.
Dimagiba concluded by reiterating his previous suggestion from last year, saying that ?in fact, the government should consider shouldering this FIT-All cost instead of passing this on to the public. Also, there are various legal issues that need to be addressed, primarily of which is jurisdiction.?
LKI is a new member of Consumers International, a membership organization for consumer groups around the world. Consumer International is composed of over 200 member organizations in more than 100 countries to empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere. Dimagiba also acts as Chairman of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) of the Philippines.
For any inquiries or concerns, you may reach LKI President Vic Dimagiba at 0917-812-5546, visit www.labankonsyumer.com and like us on Facebook.