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Gatchalian appeals to House over P1k budget for ERC: Don’t punish entire agency

MANILA, Sept 6 (Mabuhay) — The chairman of the Senate energy committee on Wednesday appealed to the House of Representatives to reconsider its decision to allocate a budget of only P1,000 for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), saying the entire agency should not be punished for the “sins of the higher-ups.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Congress should instead legislate long-term institutional reforms at the ERC.

He cited for instance his proposed ERC Governance Act, which seeks to enhance accountability and transparency by instituting structural reforms and liberalizing access to information concerning the Commission’s deliberations and output.

“It would be better to aggressively pursue administrative and criminal charges against erring ERC officials instead of punishing the entire agency as a whole for the sins of the higher-ups,” he added.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a P1,000 budget for the ERC in 2018. ERC has a proposed budget of P365 million.

Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat, who moved for the approval of the ERC’s budget, said it was Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who wanted a very low budget for the agency.

“The internal problems of the ERC really have to be resolved. Kasi if you put money in that agency, e sayang lang kung walang patutunguhan. I think that will really send a strong message that the House of Representatives really wants to fix [the ERC],” Lobregat said.

The ERC was embroiled in a controversy after the suicide of Director Francisco Jose Villa Jr. last November. In one of his suicide notes, Villa revealed corruption in the agency, particularly regarding an audio-visual presentation project.

Gatchalian however cautioned that such budget will have an impact on the stability of the power sector.

Under the current energy regulatory framework, the ERC is responsible for approving power rates and issuing key permits required to get pending power projects off the ground.

“I fear that this budget cut will send a bad signal to energy investors and breed uncertainty in terms of electricity supply and power rates,” Gatchalian said. (MNS)

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