by Elinando B. Cinco
Anywhere one looks at it, the cross-section of the power industry – from the gentle household consumers to the big-time industrial patrons – are ostensibly the victors.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 21 stopping the implementation of certain anti-consumer provisions of Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA).
What was RCOA supposed to do that it caught the ire of the vast energy consumers of the country?
The edict as hatched by the Energy Regulatory Commision (ERC) would limit big-time energy buyers (one MW each) to choose an energy firm from a list of a little over 20 retail electricity suppliers accredited by the government power regulator.
The opposition groups said such a restrictive energy-supply arrangement would bind them to a select few.
Such arrangement the petitioners saw as unhealthy and would effectively limit competition. Such a situation would lead to runaway prices of energy, and the big-time industrial consumers would have no recourse but to transfer the increased cost of their production to their customers.
Here we will have a market scene where consumers will bear the brunt of higher energy rates.
Showing their relief when the SC issued its TRO, the petitioners said:
“If the TRO was not issued, some members of the FPI which have not yet found a supplier of their own choice or those who were constrained to sign a contract with a supplier under unfavorable terms, would have suffered clear and irreparable damage because the ERC resolutions will have the effect of increasing their cost of electricity.”
The groups that sought the TRO from the Supreme Court were the Federation of Philippine Industries,the Alyansa ng mga Gurong Haligi ng Agham, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ateneo de Manila University, and San Beda College-Alabang.
Random statements on the TRO culled from media news reports:
“The SC order will safeguard against the clear and unmistakable effects of restricting competition and curtailing customer choice,” said Angelo Palmones of AGHAM Party-list. “That choice competition and our free market system should be allowed to operate without any government intervention.”
“The TRO is a big relief to members of the petitioning groups who would now be free from any compulsion from the DOE and ERC to contract with a retail electricity supplier under the terms that are clearly less beneficial. “FPI members are now free to remain with distribution utility or choose their own supplier to serve them on any date it chooses, without any form of pressure imposed on them,” the group said.
PCCI President George Barcelon: “The power industry is supposed to be a free market play. And I think in business, the denominator for us to improve is that we have to be competitive, and we should allow the users to choose, so that they would compete among themselves to give the better service and price to consumers,” in an interview over ANC’s Market Edge.
The Supreme Court had said on issuing the TRO: “Petitioners established a clear legal right to the TRO considering that the EPIRA Law provides for the voluntary migration of end-users to the contestable market, and there appears to be no basis for the mandatory migration being ordered by the DOE And ERC through the questioned issuances.”
The TRO is effective immediately and until further orders from the High Court. Once again the Supreme Court has proven that it is the bastion of freedom and justice.