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Meralco to refund customers P5.1 B

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) yesterday accepted an order of the Court of Appeals to refund its customers over P5 billion in excess charges from the main grid.

Meralco said it would comply with the ruling on the refund, which it described as a “welcome relief” for its customers. The power company will in turn source the money from the big power providers.

“The decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the ruling of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the refund of transmission line loss charges is a welcome relief to consumers. Meralco shall abide by and comply with any executable order from the court or the ERC in this regard,” said William Pamintuan, Meralco head of legal division.

In a 20-page decision released yesterday, the second division of the appellate court held that Meralco was charged by National Power Corp. (Napocor) and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) an excess of P5,176,147,098.73 during the period November 2006 to August 2012.

The CA ordered Napocor and PSALM to refund Meralco the excess charges.

The charge was for line rental adjustment. But the CA held that being mere pass-through transmission charge, Meralco was doubly charged and passed it on to consumers.

“In truth, it is the public that has been doubly charged. Meralco is enjoined to comply with the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) order which directs it to refund to its customers by way of automatic deduction of the amount of refund to computed monthly generation rate for the amount it will recover from NPC/PSALM,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Danton Bueser.

Under the order, Meralco will be receiving P73,944,958.55 per month or its equivalent until the over-recoveries are fully refunded.

The CA affirmed the March 10, 2010 decision of the ERC ordering the refund and said that such order has attained finality.

“The doctrine of finality of judgment is grounded on fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice,” the CA stressed.

The appellate court said it could not supplant the findings of the ERC on the propriety of the method to be used in implementing its decision.

“Courts as a policy should not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of the government agency entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special and technical training and knowledge of such agency,” the CA added.

Records showed that in June 2006, when the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) started its commercial operations, new systems and protocols were introduced, including the allocations for transmission line losses.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE DANTON BUESER

COURT OF APPEALS

ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

MANILA ELECTRIC CO

MERALCO

NAPOCOR

NATIONAL POWER CORP

POWER SECTOR ASSETS AND LIABILITIES MANAGEMENT CORP

REFUND

WHOLESALE ELECTRICITY SPOT MARKET

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