By Myrna M. Velasco
If in the exigency of service some officials of the Department of Energy (DOE) will be tapped to serve as officers-in-charge (OICs) of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has forthrightly stated that he will allow them to be on temporary assignment at the Commission.
“If that is warranted, and they (DOE officials) are qualified and they would be able to serve at the ERC, then why would I be selfish not to allow them,” he asserted.
Cusi qualified that he had formally written Malacanang on the power sector’s concern over a leadership black hole at the ERC because of the suspension of the four Commissioners, but he said he not given any names on who could potentially take their posts as OICs.
“The day after the order came out from the Ombudsman, our legal people studied the matter, so I wrote a letter already to Malacanang… we have expressed our concern because of the delays it might cause on projects that need collegial decision,” he said.
The energy chief emphasized that the tenor of his correspondence to the Palace had been anchored on condition that “assuming the existing Commissioners will not be able to get legal remedy or a hold order, I told them that we may need to appoint temporary Commissioners so there will be quorum and they can attend to jobs requiring collegial decision.”
There was also a proposal from Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian on naming OIC-appointees at the ERC invoking Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987, that empowers the President “to temporarily designate a competent person or any official currently in active government service to perform the function of an official working in the Executive Branch who is unable to perform his duties.”
Aside from prospective interim Commissioners that shall be ‘on-lend’ from the DOE, the others in the prospects of industry stakeholders are those in the transition committee of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) whose term are expiring February this year.
Another option being dangled is to elevate the designation of senior ERC Directors to the Commission level, since after all, they will be exercising their duties on the President’s order.
But as noted by Cusi, Malacañang is still weighing all feasible options given the legal hurdles being thrown its way on this leadership quandary at the ERC.
Investors and other relevant stakeholders in the power industry have already warned of ‘chilling effect’ if regulatory lag on pending cases and rule-making processes at the Commission will persist for a longer period.