Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a house bill that will abolish the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) following corruption allegations and the suicide of a director over alleged coercion to approve irregular contracts.
“The suspicions raised against the integrity of the ERC, which is primarily entrusted with regulating the country’s electric industry and promoting competition in the market, cannot be ignored,” Alvarez said in House Bill no. 5020.
Alvarez cited the suicide letters left by ERC Director Francisco Jose Villa Jr., which contain allegations on dubious deals and practices within the agency.
“In his suicide note, Villa claimed that his superiors exerted pressure upon his person to approve contracts that disregard the proper regulatory procedures,” Alvarez said.
Under the bill, the ERC will be replaced with the Board of Energy, which will be an attached agency of the Department of Energy. This means the DOE will control and supervise the board.
“This will ensure that the newly created board shall be explicitly within the regulatory arm of the government and specifically, within the direct control and supervision of the President,” Alvarez said.
The Board of Energy will be tasked to perform ERC’s roles. It will be composed of a chairperson and two members appointed by the President based on the recommendation of the Energy Secretary.
To ensure no conflict of interest, the bill prohibits the chairperson and members of the board or any of their relatives within the fourth civil degree, consanguinity or affinity, legitimate or common law, from holding any interest whatsoever in any company or entity engaged in the energy business.
Should they have any role in the energy business, they will be mandated to divest all their interest in the energy sector when they assume office.
The bill also prohibits the appointment to the board of any person who has worked within three years immediately prior to the appointment, or is working in any private firm engaged in the petroleum or electric industry or any other entity whose main business is related to or connected with any such firm.
Alvarez said irregularities in the ERC were brought to light after Villa’s death in November.
His suicide led President Rodrigo Duterte to call for the resignation of all ERC commissioners in order to reform the agency.