By Ellson Quismorio
Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate gave an ultimatum of sorts to Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Agnes Devanadera in connection with the seven questionable Manila Electric Company (Meralco)-linked power supply agreements (PSAs) pending before the body.
According to Zarate, Devanadera should once and for all subject the PSAs to a competitive selection process (CSP), or else show just how complicit she is to the potential suffering of millions of power consumers.
“Inaantay namin ano aksyon nila doon sa maanomalyang power supply agreements…siguro ang pwedeng gawin na lang ngayon ni chair Devanadera, i-order na isubmit yung seven PSA na yun to a competitive selection process (We are waiting for their action on the anomalous power supply agreements…maybe the only thing that chair Devanadera can do right now is to order the submission of the seven PSAs to a competitive selection process),” the militant solon said in an interview.
“Short of that, ay talagang sinabi namin na may pagkiling na rin siya at dahil ang tinitignan natin dito ay ang interes ng mga consumer, pwedeng accountable din siya (We say that she is partial and since we are looking after the consumers’ interest, she could be accountable for it),” Zarate noted.
“As a chair, this is her litmus case. Saan ba talaga ang interes niya? So ito ang inaantay natin, kung ano ang gagawin niya sa seven PSAs (Where does her interest lie? So that’s what we’re waiting for, to see what she will do with the PSAs),” he said.
Earlier, the Davao-based lawmaker vowed to file graft charges against Devanadera if she approves the PSAs. He has described these as “sweetheart deals” since the ERC bent over backward to accept the filing of the proposed contracts in 2016.
Devanadera only became ERC chairperson in November 2017.
“While earlier ERC accommodations for the Meralco PSAs came before Devanadera assumed ERC’s leadership, we guarantee that any attempt on her part to approve the PSAs despite clear findings of violations would earn for her criminal and administrative charges,” Zarate had said.
The “findings” Zarate were talking about were those learned during the joint House probe on the PSAs, which was concluded in May. The committees on good government and public accountability and on energy took part in the investigation, which resulted in the solon’s filing of House Resolution (HR) 566.
The multitrillion-peso PSAs, which involve deals on the construction of coal-fired power plants, are connected to Meralco-affiliated generation companies.
These are Redondo Peninsula Energy Incorporated, which is applying for a 225-megawatt (MW) plant; Atimonan One Energy Incorporated (1,200 MW); St. Raphael Power Generation Corporation (400 MW); Central Luzon Premiere Power Corporation (528 MW); Mariveles Power Generation Corporation (528 MW); Panay Energy Development Corporation (70 MW); and Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation (600 MW).
Zarate earlier computed that consumers would shoulder P930 billion in additional power rate expenses within the 20- to 21-year duration of the power supply deals if ERC approves them.
He tagged the seven contracts as sweetheart deals since he claimed they were accepted after the 5 p.m., April 29, 2016 deadline set by the Commission itself. On top of that, the PSAs did not go through the required bidding process.
“I think the prudent way now para sabihin natin na walang pagkiling talaga ay i-submit natin itong PSAs na ito sa kanilang rules mismo, na ang ERC mismo ang nagtakda (to prove that there is no partiality, these PSAs must be subjected under the ERC’s own rules),” Zarate reckoned.
Bayan Muna had previously criticized Devanadera for allegedly having done consultancy work in connection with one of the controversial PSAs, saying she should explain it to the public.
Devanadera is a former solicitor-general and Secretary of Justice.