SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Amid allegations of corruption in the Energy Regulatory Commission, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a bill seeking to abolish the body.
“The suspicions raised against the integrity of the ERC, which is primarily entrusted with regulating the country’s electric industry and promoting competition in the market, cannot be ignored,” said Alvarez in filing House Bill No. 5020.
He cited reports on the suicide of ERC Director Francisco Jose Villa, Jr. who left letters alleging shady deals and irregular practices in the ERC.
Alvarez proposes the abolition of the ERC and replacing it with the creation of the Board of Energy, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“This will ensure that the newly created board shall be explicitly within the regulatory arm of the government and specifically, within the direct control and supervision of the President,” Alvarez said.
Under the bill, the Board of Energy shall perform the functions of the ERC. The board shall be under the supervision and control of the DOE and shall be composed of a chairperson and two members to be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Energy Secretary.
To ensure no conflict of interests, the bill prohibits the chairperson and members of the board or any of their relatives within the fourth civil degree, consanguinity or affinity, legitimate or common law, 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.
Likewise, the bill 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 shall continue to exercise their powers and functions. In the filling of positions under the new board, preference shall be given to the personnel of the ERC.
Meanwhile, Alvarez also added his voice for the clamor to investigate the alleged corruption in the ERC by filing House Resolution No. 776.
Alvarez said that while the ERC is tasked to regulate the country’s electricity industry and promote competition in the electricity market, continuous price hikes raised suspicions of collusion and corruption in the commission.
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.
In his resolution, Alvarez urged the House of Representatives to direct the Committee on Energy to conduct the investigation in aid of legislation.
During the joint investigation conducted last February 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 Villa had raised.
The Villa suicide also prompted Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to call for the resignation of all the commissioners of ERC to pave the way for a total revamp of the body.