Hagibis, Panelo and Meralco
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Japan issued its highest level of disaster warning last Saturday as Typhoon “Hagibis” stormed through Tokyo. This is the worst typhoon ever to hit Japan in sixty years. The rainfall brought 939 mm or 37 inches of heavy rains and winds forcing 6 million people to evacuate. To date, four people died, 9 people missing, eighty people injured and 370,000 families experienced power shortage and a Panamanian cargo ship with 12 crew members on board is missing in Tokyo Bay.

Two major events that were supposed to take place this weekend were cancelled: the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix and the Rugby World Cup.  Tourists and international participants in Tokyo who all gathered for the said events, witnessed Typhon Hagibis in their hotel rooms. According to several sources, they felt their buildings shake and heard the howling of the winds. Electricity went on and off. 

As we all know, the Japanese are masters of their craft. They have also perfected their programs of Disaster Management for earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, etc. Surely, in no time, everything will go back to normal as damage from floods and landslides are already being assessed. As we struggle to normalize things in our disaster-laden country brought about by typhoons, surges not to mention the debilitating traffic, Japan will just jump back in a jiffy.

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The latest “hilarious” news that has kept social media wired up and in a frenzy is that of our palace jester. In fairness to him, he is doing quite a good job in amusing and distracting the people from the more crucial issues. Clap! Clap! Clap!

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was challenged to take public transport from his home to the Palace after saying that there was “no mass transport crisis” in Metro Manila. The public became furious with such a statement because of the sacrifice, horror, anguish they experience in their daily commute.

It’s about everything – from the long lines in the terminals due to lack of mass transport, the heat, the stench, the pushing and the fighting in the waiting areas (more often than not shed without roofs), the danger in the jeepneys and buses where drivers run their vehicles like there is no tomorrow and the traffic just about everywhere. And the Palace jester says, “there is no mass transport crisis”. Sanamagan!

Does the President really know how his officials are treating us? Why do we feel like we are being treated like pigs or monkeys? Why can’t his officials be more civilized? Why don’t they even sympathize with the daily agony Filipinos have to go through? Isn’t it the job of the government to make us feel secured and protected? Why have our government officials grown so callous?

In case Panelo has difficulty discerning, a “crisis” is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger; a time of confusion, or suffering. It is a situation in which something or someone is affected by one or more very serious problems. But then again, I think he was hired to be a Palace jester, so why take him seriously … just ignore him.

We are actually barking at the wrong tree. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Metro Manila Development Authority should be the ones resolving our problems. They don’t need emergency powers. They need brains and the will to govern. That’s all!

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Last November 2016 an official of the Energy Regulation Commission committed suicide because of corruption in his office. According to veteran journalist Charie Villa, the sister of the late ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. his brother was allegedly being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure. She said that her brother revealed ERC contracts that were executed even before the actual bidding process.

I wonder now if the government had shed some light on those allegations and revelations of corrupt practices in the ERC. The case of National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc., Petitioner, vs. Energy Regulatory Commission, et al. Respondents (G.R. No. 226443), stemmed from the petition for review on certiorari filed by NASECORE assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) decision dated February 29, 2016 and Resolution dated August 18, 2016, which affirmed ERC Orders dated June 21, 2011 and February 4, 2013. The Court held that ERC’s order was in violation of its statutory mandate to approve rates that will provide electricity to consumers “in the least cost manner.” Thus, it remanded to ERC the case for determination of a reasonable and fair valuation of the regulatory asset base that will provide electricity to consumers “in the least cost manner.”

In partially granting the petition, the SC found that the ERC failed to properly consider COA’s findings as well as to comply with its statutory mandate to approve a rate that provides electricity to consumers “in the least cost manner” as expressly provided in ERC’s charter. Section 38 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines and Book V, Title I, Subtitle B, Chapter 4, Section 22 of the Administrative Code of 1987 specifically authorizes COA to examine accounts of public utilities in connection with the fixing of rates of every nature. The Court said that Meralco and other electricity distribution utilities are monopolies that are regulated by the State, particularly on the rates they charge consumers. The same rationale in regulating power acquisition costs by distribution utilities applies to the allowable depreciation of capital assets by distribution utilities in the present case.

Supreme Court en banc voided recently ERC’s rule allowing Meralco to revalue depreciable assets at replacement cost. The SC ordered ERC to formulate reasonable parameters for depreciating capital assets that will provide electricity to consumers at least cost. This unanimous decision was penned by Justice Antonio T Carpio.

By the way, if you remember, Justice Carpio is one of the longest-serving SC justices who declined his automatic nomination for chief justice. In the words of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, “Senior Associate Justice Carpio is the best top magistrate that the country never had.” Let’s rejoice that we can still hope for justice in this chaotic country of ours with people who stand firm by their principles in life.

TYPHOON HAGIBIS
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