Group asks ERC to unmask probe on price manipulation at WESM

June 4, 2010 8:02 pm 

By Marie S. Neri‏

MANILA, June 4 —The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), a power advocacy group, has asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to reveal the results of its investigation on the alleged price manipulation at the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM).

In a letter sent to the ERC, the group reminded ERC executive director Francis Saturnino Juan of his February 24 public statement that the agency was “already looking into the issue” and could “initiate an investigation on our own and make the appropriate recommendation.”

“We believe that three months are more than enough to conduct such an investigation on whether an anti-competitive market behavior really happened at WESM or not,” said FDC vice president Loretta Ann Rosales.

“It’s time to reveal the result,” she said.

The ERC’s own initiative to investigate was in reaction to the claims of former Palace economic adviser and Albay Governor Joey Salceda of price abnormalities at the WESM, which the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) administers, early February.

Salceda said that from Feb. 11-13, WESM prices had spiked to P68 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), well above the National Power Corp.’s P4.02/kWh.

Immediately after Salceda made public his personal assessment, former Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Angelo T. Reyes ordered PEMC to investigate the allegations of price manipulation at WESM, and “validate the veracity of facts mentioned by the good governor."

Early this week, however, PEMC has decided to toss to the ERC the power to investigate the alleged drastic price spikes covering the period from Jan. 26 to Feb. 25, 2010, which became the subject of complaint jointly lodged by Manila Electric Co. and Dagupan Electric Corp.

“The ball is in the hands of ERC now,” said Rosales.

“As advocates, we urge the ERC to finally reveal and punish the culprits to this anti-consumer operation,” she said.

Section 45 of Republic Act 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), guards against anti-competitive behavior, setting fines ranging from P50,000 to P50 million. (PNA) RMA/MSN/utb

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