ERC: Collusion probe could take months

By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2014 06:30 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2014 02:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines – It could take months for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to find out whether collusion among power producers happened during the trading of electricity when the Malampaya natural gas facility was on shutdown from November 11 to December 10, 2013.

In a briefing with reporters, ERC Commissioner Ina Asirit said the commission already formed an investigation unit, headed by Atty. Jojo Tomas, that has started studying 1,488 trading intervals covering the questioned period overlapping November and December.

According to Asirit, the commission will not be able to fulfill an earlier deadline set by energy officials to release the result of the investigation on the possible collusion due to the voluminous data involved in the probe.

When asked if consumers will expect another spike in their monthly bill, considering the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the P4.15 per kilowatt hour (kwh) hike and the cap on the generation charge for January 2014 at P7.37/kwh, Asirit said if the consumption is more or less the same, consumers must not expect higher bills.

That is if the generation charge for December pegged at P5.67/kwh will be carried over to January in deference to the TRO.

But if Meralco decides to follow the ERC order capping the generation charge at P7.37/kwh, there will be another hike for January for the simple reason that the generation charge from December which was pegged at P5.67/kwh is lower than the cap indicated by the ERC order issued before the TRO.

On allegations of whitewash on the investigation as alleged by militant groups, Asirit said, "Hindi pwedeng masahehin ang resulta kasi we're dealing with hard data, ‘di pwedeng i-manipulate yan."

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares hit Malacanang, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the power cartel for allegedly conditioning the minds of the public that there is no collusion among the power generators and that the P4.15 power rate increase should be shouldered by electricity consumers without complaint.