Power politics
JAYWALKER - Art Borjal () - May 20, 2002 - 12:00am
While Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair Fe Barin is deservedly known for her integrity, it appears that she, too, unwittingly, has been sucked by the political tornado sweeping the power rate debate, specifically on the purchased power adjustment or PPA. Politically, you cannot go wrong if you side with consumer advocates, real and fake, in such an unpopular issue as the power rate hike. Is politics so contagious that it can infect even a sober a political arbiter like Fe Barin?
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Last April 30, Barin issued twin orders to Meralco: (1) for the company to explain why no administrative/criminal action should be instituted against it for alleged deviations from the formula of PPA computation; and, (2) to cease and desist from automatically collecting its over/under recoveries in the PPA. The orders smack of popular politics because there was no basis to issue such order to begin with.
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Records show that never has Meralco deviated from the formula of PPA computation prescribed by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB), the predecessor office of ERC. Every month, Meralco submits to ERC, as it did in the past to ERB, its computations, with all supporting documents, in compliance with the regulator’s requirements. All of Meralco’s PPA calculations are recorded with ERC and are available for public examination. The records speak for themselves; Meralco has never deviated from the PPA computation formula.
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ERC’s cease and desist order was, at best, premature. Since February, ERC and Meralco have been holding continuing discussions on the matter of computation of the P12.3 billion PPA under-recoveries. Last April 29, a day before ERC issued the cease and desist order barring Meralco from including the questioned P12.3 billion in its PPA computations, the company was still discussing the matter with the Commission on Audit team tasked by the ERC to evaluate the computations.
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Meralco concedes that the officials representing ERC in the meetings on the issue of under-recoveries were not satisfied with the company’s explanations. Be it as it may, ERC has not officially ruled on the matter. Thus, the cease and desist order was premature. Further, the cease and desist order may only be issued after due notice and hearing. ERC never set an order for notice and hearing. Thus, the cease and desist order was void ab initio.
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The questioned P12.3 billion under recoveries represent deferred collection of actual PPA cost. Why was collection deferred? Meralco’s explanation: "At all times, the company has in mind the well-being of the electricity consuming public and has always acted promptly on their immediate concerns, needs and interests. Adhering to this service philosophy and bearing in mind the current economic difficulties of its customers, the company tempered the impact of the PPA adjustment by deferring the recovery of the actual PPA cost even it has suffered substantial financing cost".
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Some 98 percent of the P12.3 billion represent payments already made by Meralco to its power suppliers, with Napocor getting the lion’s share. The supply agreements between Meralco and its power suppliers (Napocor and the two IPPs (Quezon Power and First Gas) were duly approved by the defunct ERB after due notice and hearings. Meralco is authorized by the ERC to collect in its billings to customers the cost attendant to the approved agreements. Thus, why the cease and desist order?
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Actually, Meralco has no problem with the cease and desist order. It was mentioned earlier that 98 per cent of the deferred PPA go to power suppliers. The balance of two per cent goes to the government as taxes. Nothing in the PPA goes to Meralco, the PPA being merely a mechanism by which the company reflects increases in the cost of power purchased from suppliers. So, why the fuss? Meralco is fussing because it is being blamed for the PPA, which is actually a requirement imposed by the government, and whose biggest beneficiary is the government-owned Napocor.
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Cristina C. Stahn of Washington State, USA, wonders whether our Post Office in Manila is safe. Last February, she sent a letter containing some photographs through Priority mail to her daughter last February.  It is now May and her daughter still has not received the letter. It was suppose to be in Manila in a week’s time. 
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Cristina recounted that her friend, who is also a Filipina, sent two letters via Priority mail and the same thing happened. The letters were not received by her family. "Do the people at the Post Office in Manila think there is always Money inside Priority Letters?  I don’t think it is proper that they would think of it!  I’m so frustrated," she said.
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Billy Esposo, chairman of COPA, is asking a former Ateneo HS class ’67 classmate for copies of two classic Filipino speeches which he wants his son to deliver in an American elocution contest among Jesuit Universities and colleges in the States. These speeches are the famous speech (delivered and written by Carlos P. Romulo narrating the flight of "The last man out" from Bataan just before it fell. Billy once delivered this in an NUHS contest but cannot remember the name. This is the speech where it narrates how the fighters of Bataan used to fish downed planes from the sea, tie them together with bamboo sticks and make them fly.
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Billy is also asking for Raul Manglapus’ Land of bondage, land of the free. But the priority is the Romulo speech because being a Bataan theme where Americans were involved would be more relevant to the American audience.
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Thoughts For Today:

Every morning the Lord blows you kisses of love,
peace, kindness and understanding
not only for you to have
but also for you to share.
* * *
Each day our goal is to touch one’s heart,
encourage one’s mind, and inspire one’s soul.
May you continue to be blessed
and be a blessing to others.
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My e-mail address: jaywalker@pacific.net.ph and artborjal@yahoo.com

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