Peoples’ Organizations, Envi Groups Welcome Ombudsman ERC Commissioners Suspension Order

QUEZON CITY — Peoples’ organizations and environmental groups lauded the recently issued Ombudsman order to suspend virtually all Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners for having given unwarranted benefit to Meralco in their suspension of the competitive selection process (CPS), a power supply procurement scheme requiring public bidding instead of a negotiated procurement.

According to Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, the order validates peoples groups and environmental advocates’ claims that the power supply agreements (PSAs) filed by coal-sourced energy giant Meralco and admitted by the ERC are a form of ‘sweetheart’ deals meant to favor corporate interest over public good.

“The Ombudsman suspension order bolsters the truth that only collusion between the government and corporations could have allowed for such anti-consumer and anti-environment agreements to prevail,” said Pedrosa.

“This suspension order should serve as a warning to the ERC to seriously review the petition against the deals, which was filed in intervention by concerned community leaders and peoples’ groups only to be junked by ERC chambers,” he continued.

Diocese of Lucena’s Desk on Environmental Concern Priest-In-Charge Father Warren Puno concurred with Pedrosa, especially in light of the Quezon community’s struggle against coal-fired power plants.

“Ang desisyon ng Ombudsman na suspendihin ang lahat ng commissioner ay malinaw na basehan na totoo nga na may sabwatan ang MGen at ERC,” said Father Warren.

“Isang babala ito sa mga uupong commissioners at sa kasalukuyang Chairman na wag nilang madaliin ang pag-aproba sa Power Supply Agreement na hinihingi ng Meralco. Ito ay dapat dumaan sa tamang proseso. Sila ay mga lingkod bayan at dapat ang bibigyan nila ng pagkiling ay ang taong bayan — lalo na ang mahihirap. Hinihiling namin sa ERC na ibasura na ang kasunduang ito dahil nagdesisyon na ang Ombudsman na ito ay maanomalya. Bagamat isang maagang papasko para sa mga mamayan ng Quezon ang suspension order, hindi pa rin kami titigil hanggang hindi tuluyang maiwaksi ang pagtatayo ng coal-fired power plant sa aming komunidad. Patuloy kaming magbabantay sa mga susunod nilang desisyon,” he concluded.

Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances described Meralco’s collusion with the ERC as conclusive proof of the growing obsoletion of “dirty, deadly, and costly” coal-sourced energy in the country.

Arances claimed that all the contested PSAs compel the expansion of coal-fired power plants and result to the “locking in” of the country to coal, which has been decried by vast numbers of coal-affected communities and environmental advocates as severely destructive to people’s health and livelihood, to the country’s economy, and to the welfare of an increasingly warming planet.

“While coal is fast losing its environmental and economic viability, cleaner and cheaper alternatives provided by renewable energy are on the rise — and giant coal corporations are well aware of this,” said Arances.

“For instance, coal oligarchs like Meralco’s Pangilinans and Semirara Mining and Power Corporation’s (SMPC) Consunjis are being surfaced lately for their hand in preventing governmental regulations over the long-uncontested industry of coal,” continued Arances

He cited the swift deletion of the TRAIN bill provision on an excise tax on local coal done outside of formal deliberation in Congress, a move which has been claimed to be lobbied for by Consunji-led SMPC.

“This exposed collusion between ERC officials and Meralco prove that coal is still prevalent in our country — not because the people need it, but because corporate interest wills it,” Pedrosa added.

According to Pedrosa, the Philippine coal industry continuing, unbridled expansion would lead to more deaths and destroyed livelihoods as the effects of fossil fuel induced climate change worsen over time.

He claimed that further, assertive action must be done to combat the forceful push for coal by the few.

“It would be a shame to let our people continue to suffer at the hands of the few proponents of coal, especially with better alternatives right within our reach,” concluded Pedrosa.