Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alvarez seeks ERC abolition

 (The Philippine Star) |

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a bill seeking to abolish the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) following allegations of corruption among its officials.
Alvarez said the suspicions raised against the integrity of the ERC could not be ignored.
The agency is tasked to regulate the country’s power industry and promote competition in the market.
Alvarez cited reports on the suicide of ERC director Francisco Jose Villa Jr., who left a note alleging shady deals and irregular practices in the ERC.
He proposed the abolition of the ERC and replacing it with the Board of Energy, which will be an attached agency of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“This will ensure that the newly created board will be within the regulatory arm of the government and direct control and supervision of the President,” he said.
Alvarez’s House Bill 5020 provides that the Board of Energy will perform the functions of the ERC.
The board will be under the supervision and control of the DOE and composed of a chairman and two members to be appointed by the President upon recommendation of the energy secretary.
To ensure no conflict of interests, the bill prohibits the chairman and members of the board or any of their relatives from holding any interest whatsoever in any company or entity engaged in the energy business.  
If they have involvement in the energy business, they are required to divest all their interests in the energy sector upon assumption of office.
The bill also prohibits the appointment to the board of any person who has worked within three years immediately prior to the appointment, or is working in any private firm engaged in the petroleum or electric industry or any other entity whose main business is related to or connected with any such firm.
During the transition period, the ERC and its existing personnel should continue to exercise their powers and functions.
In filling the positions of the new board, preference shall be given to ERC personnel.
Meanwhile, Alvarez joined calls to investigate the alleged corruption in the ERC by filing House Resolution 776.
He said that while the ERC is tasked to regulate the country’s power industry, continuous price hikes raised suspicions of collusion and corruption in the agency.
He said such suspicions were bolstered by Villa’s suicide.
“In his suicide note, Villa claimed that his superiors exerted pressure upon his person to approve contracts that disregard the proper regulatory procedures,” Alvarez said.
He urged the House to direct the committee on energy to conduct the investigation in aid of legislation. 
During the joint investigation conducted last Feb. 8 by the House committees on good government and energy, four commissioners bared a “cloud of mistrust and fear” hanging over the agency amid the allegations that Villa had raised.
The Villa suicide also prompted Duterte to call for the resignation of all ERC commissioners.

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