Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Friday said regional trial courts (RTCs) have no jurisdiction over cases involving electricity rates.

Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, chairman of the House justice committee, questioned the decision of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 208 to entertain a case filed by South Premier Power Corp. (SPPC), an affiliate of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), contesting its overdue payments to government amounting to PHP23.94 billion on the administration of the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Ilijan power plant.

Veloso cited the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that granted original and exclusive jurisdiction to the Energy Regulatory Commission overall cases contesting rates and fees, as well as cases involving disputes between and among players in the energy sector.

He noted that the law does not allow courts lower than the Court of Appeals to meddle in cases involving electricity rates and other power-related issues.

“RTC judges should not entertain such petitions. I will bring up this matter of intervention with the Supreme Court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House public accounts committee, said a congressional inquiry has been conducted into the PHP95 billion worth of overdue receivables of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) from power producers and electric cooperatives.

“Our inquiry is principally in aid of legislation, though we at the same time want to help the executive branch to collect this huge amount of receivables,” Defensor said.

Defensor also echoed Veloso’s claim, stating that Section 43 of EPIRA “is clear enough on jurisdiction over disputes.”

“But if it needs further clarification for all concerned, including judges, we can recommend remedial legislation,” Defensor said.

SMC said it had paid a total of PHP314.6 billion, consisting of PHP73.9 billion in fixed monthly payments and PHP240.7 billion in generation charges.

PSALM, however, refuted that the SMC still owed the government PHP23.94 billion.

The PSALM has vowed to continue its vigorous collection efforts to go after Independent Power Producer Administrators (IPPAs) with delinquent accounts totaling a whopping PHP33.62 billion following instructions from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to pursue all legal remedies to compel these IPPAs to pay at once.

If the PHP33.62-billion delinquent accounts remain unpaid by the IPPAs, PSALM will incur an annual borrowing cost of about PHP1.7 billion a year — a substantial amount that could have otherwise been used by the government to spend more on its priority programs on infrastructure and human capital development.

Earlier, Defensor said four power producers have committed to pay their financial obligations to the government amounting to more than PHP23 billion during the House joint hearing.

He said the private firms that committed to pay the financial obligations were Meralco, PHP15 billion; Northern Renewables Generation Corp., PHP4.6 billion; FDC (Filinvest Development Corp.) Misamis Power Corp., PHP2.6 billion; and FDC Utilities, Inc., PHP1.2 billion. (IAmigo/PNA)

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