Thursday, June 22, 2017

MICC-led mining review in limbo

Published June 9, 2017, 10:00 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Now that environmentalist Regina Paz Lopez is no longer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), uncertainties loom as to whether the review that Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is supposed to conduct on mining operations to appease the miners and the stakeholders will ever proceed.
To recall, the MICC, co-chaired by the secretaries of DENR and Department of Finance (DOF), is set to conduct a technical review on all mining operations in the country to address the concerns regarding DENR’s earlier decision to shut down and suspend a total of 28 mine sites.
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), the most vocal critic of Lopez, even thanked the MICC then for deciding to create a technical working group to study the closure and suspension orders imposed by the former environment secretary to several mining firms.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who heads the DOF Legal Services Group, earlier said the MICC wants to start the technical review in February or “as soon as” possible.
But it has already been more than a month since Lopez failed to get the confirmation from the Commission on Appointments (CA) and the MICC is yet to update the public about the review.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) assistant director Danilo Uykieng said there is “no update yet” as to when the MICC will finally start the audit.
“No update or meeting schedule yet. The last meeting was the short-listing of the experts for the technical team and budget recommendation for approval,” Uykieng told Business Bulletin, adding that the said meeting happened in April, even before Lopez was bypassed by the CA on May 2.
In a separate text exchange, Agabin confirmed that the MICC has not yet started the controversial review.
“We are still vetting the members of the review team and finalizing the Terms of Reference for the review. After this, we need to procure their services following government procurement procedures,” Agabin, who also heads the Legal Affairs Group and Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the DOF, also told Business Bulletin.

Power rates cut by P1.43 per kwh this month

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Customers of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will see lower electricity bills for the second straight month, as the power distributor yesterday announced a P1.43 per kilowatt-hour reduction in overall rate in June.
From P9.60 per kwh, consumers will be charged P8.17 per kwh, the second lowest since December 2009, as lower generation charge and the first wave of the P6.9-billion over-recovery refund from January 2014 to December 2016 are factored in.
This month’s rate decrease amounts to a P285 decrease in the total bill of a typical household consuming 200 kwh; P429 for 300 kwh; P572 for 400 kwh; and P715 for 500 kwh.
Last month, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) cleared the company to give a refund over a three-month period starting this month. For residential customers, the refund translates to a reduction of P0.79 per kwh, excluding taxes.
Overall generation charge, meanwhile, decreased by P1.0253 per kwh, from P4.8839 per kwh to P3.8586 per kwh, according to Meralco.
The cost of power sourced from independent power producers (IPPs) went down by P0.59 per kwh and from the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) by P1.25 per kwh. Power supply agreement (PSA) prices slipped P0.04 per kwh.
 “There was a reduction in IPP and PSA costs because of higher plant dispatch, continuous peso appreciation and the completion of the staggered recovery of liquid fuel cost that was incurred during the Malampaya maintenance shutdown from Jan. 28 to Feb. 16, 2017,” Meralco said.
“Additionally, the decrease in cost of power supplied through the WESM is due to fewer plant outages despite higher power demand in Luzon.”
The share of IPPs and PSA purchases to Meralco’s total requirements are 40.7 percent and 45.6 percent, respectively.
The share of WESM stood at 13.7 percent.
Reductions were also registered in other bill components: transmission charge decreased by P0.11 per kwh while taxes and other charges also went down by a combined amount of P0.35 per kwh.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bill filed to reform ERC

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian will file a bill to reform the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) aimed to enhance its governance structure and transparency following the recent shake-up within the ranks of the power regulator.
The bill, titled Energy Regulatory Commission Governance Act of 2017, will ensure the check-and-balance, transparency and consumer-centric position of the ERC.
 “I presented some salient points in our proposal. This is to strengthen the governance aspect of Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA),” Gatchalian said during the Power the Philippines Forum hosted by GE yesterday.
He said one of the important features of the bill is to balance power between the commissioners and the chairman.
 “Right now, the chairman is the chief executive officer. We will now balance the power of the chairman with the commissioners,” Gatchalian said.
The bill proposes to remove the executive functions from the chairperson and transfer it to all the commissioners. It also enumerates administrative offenses and penalties for refusal to comply with transparency and accountability clauses.
Under the proposed reform, the chairman will have to consult with commissioners regarding meeting schedules and agenda; secure that the commission avoid acts which unduly influence, impede or hamper the executive director or any employee; and establish good corporate governance practices and procedures.
Meanwhile, the members of the commission will have the responsibility to appoint an executive director and conduct review and approval of the appointment of key ERC personnel and ERC budget.
In April, ERC Commissioners Alfredo Non, Josefina Magpale-Asirit, Gloria Yap-Taruc and Geronimo Sta. Ana filed a memorandum objecting the reconstitution of the organization as ordered by chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, which they claimed should be done by the whole commission.
Salazar was then placed under a 90-day preventive suspension effective for deceiving MalacaƱang in filing his travel authority and designating somebody without proper authority as OIC while he was abroad.
Another feature of the bill is mandating the ERC to conduct open meetings when undertaking deliberations on rate-making to improve transparency within the commission.
 “In the Senate, we are open to the public when we cast our votes on major decisions. We are allowed to explain our vote, which are shown to the public. Why can’t we do the same with ERC? At the end, we are the ones paying for the electricity rates. We have to understand their arguments for approving or not,” Gatchalian said.
The bill will also require the ERC to form a support desk that will provide legal and technical assistance to consumers.
The lawmaker said every consumer has a right to access information upon request.
“I realized that we don’t really have a strong consumer group… Government should initiate education for consumers about rate making, on the rules and regulation. We have to be proactive. Hopefully it will attract consumer groups to be more participative and educate themselves. You cannot just disagree. You also know the technicalities so we are educated when we disagree,” Gatchalian said.