The Philippine Star

Hag­ibis, Panelo and Mer­alco

- SARA SOLIVEN DE GUZ­MAN Natural Disasters · Rugby Union · Disasters · Rugby · Sports · Manila Electric Company · Japan · Tokyo · Manila · Metro Manila · Albania · U.S. Supreme Court · Philippines · Formula One Grand Prix · Pancho Villa

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.

* * * 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!

* * * 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.

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