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Nationwide consultations on Epira amendments set

By MYRNA VELASCO
Contributor

SERIES of nationwide and multi-stakeholder consultations will be undertaken by the Department of Energy (DOE) in line with the Aquino administration’s wish to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) or the law governing the restructured electricity sector.

In a memorandum issued by Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos, he directed all of the Department of Energy’s attached agencies and corporations to actively participate in the process.

“In line with the Department’s mandate to supervise the implementation of the power sector reforms pursuant to EPIRA, we will be conducting a series of focused group discussions to evaluate its progress, identify current issues and solicit proposals for its possible amendments,” the DOE memorandum has noted.

The DOE directive similarly requested the submission of inputs from its attached agencies and to help gather the same from affected stakeholders.

A consultations with the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association Inc. (PIPPA) was held Friday (January 17), covering all power generators and with the inclusion of retail electricity suppliers.

Next in the FGD schedule will be with the Private Electric Power Operators Association Inc. (PEPOA) and the other distribution utilities in Luzon.

The others to be consulted will be the foreign chambers, various business groups, official development assistance (ODA) and other foreign donor agencies, labor as well as various consumer groups nationwide.

In earlier interviews with reporters, however, stakeholders are not keen on the proposed amendments to the EPIRA given that all the required safeguards and incentives for investments are already in the law, but it has been the implementation needing some improvements.

For one, First Gen chairman Federico R. Lopez sounded off that the EPIRA was a legislated work which considered the inputs of all stakeholders and has all the necessary levers to avert market abuses.

He stressed it would be up to the regulators and policymakers to “see these levers” and hopefully apply them for the industry’s long-term viability. Industry players also urged some quarters not just to fixate themselves on the rate hike controversy surrounding the Manila Electric Company.

“It is very important to get to the bottom of what happened, but anyone who knows the law knows also that there are many levers and safeguards … that whether it is the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) or the DOE … they can call on these levers to be able to correct anomalies,” Lopez stressed.

He further averred “I think at the end of the day, it’s a matter also for people learning what the levers are and what the safeguards are to correct the situation and to avoid the repeat of a situation like that.”

The First Gen top executive similarly emphasized that when EPIRA was legislated “the whole industry was very involved, there were technical working groups, and the government (was also there)… of course, people come and go and there are learning curves. But proper investigation is the right thing to do to get to the bottom of the problem for now.”

Investors view the proposals on EPIRA amendments as another tricky move triggering new uncertainties and such may deter investment flows for some time.