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Groups laud TRO on open access

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Various groups lauded the Supreme Court (SC) for its recent temporary restraining order (TRO) on the retail competition and open access (RCOA) policy of Department of Energy (DOE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that supposedly limits accredited suppliers of big power consumers.

In separate statements, the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and Alyansa ng mga Gurong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa  Mamamayan (AGHAM) said the TRO issued by the high court last Feb. 21 would benefit consumers as well as the whole power industry.

“If a TRO was not issued, some members of FPI which have not yet found a supplier of their own choice or those who were constrained to sign 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 FPI stressed.

AGHAM agreed, saying the TRO prevented a situation placing industries and consumers in such unfavorable and disadvantaged position.

The partylist group also urged the SC to rule on the case immediately “to safeguard against the clear and unmistakable effects of restricting competition and curtailing customer choice."

"At the end of the day, AGHAM believes that choice competition and our free market system should be allowed to operate without any government intervention," Palmones said.

The groups said the SC TRO is a big relief to their members who would now be free from any compulsion from the DOE and ERC to contract with a retail electricity supplier under terms that are clearly less beneficial to them, adding that the members of FPI are now free to remain with the distribution utility or choose its own supplier to serve them on any date it chooses, without any form of pressure imposed on them.

Both FPI and AGHAM have questioned the RCOA before the SC last year, but the high court issued the TRO only recently upon a petition filed in December last year by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

The group reiterated their argument that RCOA runs counter to “the spirit of free market and competitive environment as espoused by EPIRA, and will have the effect of increasing the cost of electricity to consumers.”

They reiterated that the new policy effectively limits the choice of customers to select their power supplier and compel them to become part of the contestable market under pain of severe penalty. FPI also questioned that the resolutions require their members to abandon their chosen supplier even if the latter is offering the lowest tariff.

Petitioners in the case from Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College Alabang also lauded the SC for the TRO.

"EPIRA clearly provides for the voluntary migration of end-users to the contestable market and there appears to be no basis for the mandatory migration ordered by ERC and DOE through their issuances,” the two educational institutions stressed.

In issuing the TRO, the high court held that 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 the ERC through the questioned issuances."  

The TRO is effective immediately and until further orders from the SC. 

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