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ERC urged to suspend competitive power bidding

Consumer and advocacy group CitizenWatch asked power regulators to suspend the implementation of the competitive selection process, or CSP, on distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in securing supply agreements.

Citing failure of similar processes in the past, Central Luzon convenor of CitizenWatch Tim Abejo said the CSP would not work and asked the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department to suspend it.

Cases involving the Central Luzon Electric Cooperative Association-First Luzon Aggregation Group and others resulted to failure in the bidding process, said Abejo.

“The DoE circular is barking at the wrong tree,” CitizenWatch secretary general Wilford Wong quoted policy expert Nonoy Oplas as saying.

“By making the competitive bidding mandatory rather than voluntary, it will invite or create more problems than what it intends to solve. The DoE and other government agencies should instead address other factors that make electricity expensive, including prohibitive taxation and several layers of permits that leave room for corruption and extortion,” he said.

Abejo likened the move to government intervening in private business.

CitizenWatch also took issue with the circular’s endorsement of an Energy-approved independent arbiter to administer the bidding process.

“It looks like anyone and anybody can apply for the job as an arbitrator. There is this danger that incompetent people would be placed in this position,” Abejo said.

“Electricity is considered a basic need of every person and passing the duty of our regulators--which have evaluated supply contracts for years now--to someone who is not competent enough to determine what is best or not for the consumers, is dangerous and will be subject to abuse,” Wong said.

CitizenWatch said it would push for the suspension of th circular, which it described as “ambiguous.”

The Energy Department and the Energy Regulatory Commission jointly issued the first draft of the implementing guidelines on the controversial competitive selection process.

ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said the agency would conduct consultations by the middle to the third week of October.

“We are still targeting to meet the Oct. 27 deadline. Our intention is to have a decision by that time, so either we go on with the CSP or set that aside. We have to consider the position of all concerned parties,” Salazar said.

Salazar assured ERC “will come up with a decision that is acceptable to all the parties and at the same time achieve the objective of the DoE circular.”

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