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 Malacañang 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.