By Myrna M. Velasco
Following the Malacañang dismissal of its highest official, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is now prodded to work double time so it can clear up hundreds of backlog of rate-setting cases and other petitions.
Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who first advanced call on the Palace to step in into resolving the ERC mess, expressed hope that “the decision of Malacañang will finally put an end to the controversies which have called into question the integrity of the ERC as an institution.”
He qualified that “the leadership struggle at the ERC has also slowed down the Commission’s performance as regulator of the power sector. Now that it has been resolved, the ERC should work double time to resolve its backlog and take action on pending petitions which have a critical effect on electricity rates and other power sector matters.”
Nevertheless, he stressed that the Malacanang decision must “serve as a warning to ERC officials – and public servants as a whole – that this government is serious about cracking down on corruption in all forms.”
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, for his part, has indicated that the Malacañang order on the ERC chief’s removal from office “proves this administration’s meanness in its fight against corruption and to put order at ERC.”
To enhance the capacity of officials and key employees manning the ERC, a re-alignment of P15 million has been instituted for their training and travel expenses, as part of the Commission’s 2018 budget.
“There’s P15 million of confidential funds that we re-aligned for training and travel expenses, hopefully, that will be of help to them (ERC),” Gatchalian said.
The amount earmarked is seen providing temporary relief to the agency, while Congress still deliberates on a measure intending to reinforce the regulatory body’s processes as well as its system of administration.