Senator Gatchalian submits consumer-centric reform bill on ERC

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Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian is keen to reform the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in light to improve its government structure, balance of power and transparency portions that indicate confidence with the public, especially the consumer market.

The Energy Regulatory Commission Governance Act of 2017, which Gatchalian authored, will focus on the consumer-centric position of the ERC and the strengthening of the governance aspect of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), among others.

The shake-up within the ranks at the ERC caused the authoring of the bill, which suggests to remove the executive functions from the chairperson and transfer it to all the commissioners.

The reform includes comprehensive administrative offenses and penalties for refusal to comply with transparency and accountability clauses.

“Right now, the chairman is the chief executive officer. We will now balance the power of the chairman with the commissioners,” Gatchalian said, explaining that the bill will also feature one of its crucial points on the balance of power between the commissioner and the chairman.

Also, one of the key features in the ERC reform is the commission’s authority to organize open meetings on undertaking rate-making deliberations to improve transparency within the commission.

Following this, the reform also requires the ERC to arrange its own support desk that will cater technical and legal assistance to customers.

“In the Senate, we are open to the public when we cast our votes on major decisions. We are allowed to explain our vote, which are shown to the public. Why can’t we do the same with ERC?,” Gatchalian said, stressing that the consumer has every right to access information upon request.

The chairman must consult with the commissioners about meeting schedules and agenda to prevent the ERC from committing acts of unduly influence; impede or hamper the executive director or any employee; and establish good corporate governance.

ERC members, on the other hand, will be in charge of appointing an executive director and conduct review and approval of the appointment of personnel and the commission’s budget.

The senator also said that the ERC should be proactive and initiate education for energy consumers about ratemaking, as well as the commission’s rules and regulation in order to pull a stronger, more participative customer market.

“You cannot just disagree. You also know the technicalities so we are educated when we disagree,” he said.

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