The hearing officer of the Energy Regulatory Commission has set the pre-trial conference for the petition of Central Negros Electric Cooperative on December 7 at the CENECO Office in Bacolod City after ordering the intervenors and oppositors to file their respective pre-trial briefs.
CENECO has filed a petition asking the ERC to allow it to collect under-recoveries totaling P414.6 million.
ERC hearing officer Ronaldo Gomez yesterday said that, aside from CENECO, there are other electric cooperatives who have pending applications with ERC concerning over/ under-recoveries.
He said the pre-trial conference supposed to be held yesterday in Bacolod did not materialize since a number of intervenors were not able to file their pre-trials briefs. If they can file their pre-trial briefs, the pre-trial conference will proceed on December 7, he added.
Gomez said that after the pre-trial conference, they will set the evidential hearing for CENECO and the oppositors or intervenors to present their evidences. After that, their witnesses will be subjected to cross-examination, etc, so the resolution of the case may take longer.
Meanwhile, Gomez said that during the June 8 hearing, he made a ruling dismissing the motion to dismiss filed by Bayan Muna and gave them an opportunity to file their motion for reconsideration.
They had not filed a motion for reconsideration as of yesterday so the matter is considered dismissed already, he said.
Joven Evangelista, legal counsel of Bayan Muna, said they maintain that ERC has no jurisdiction over the application of CENECO because the electric cooperative failed to comply with the mandatory requirements under ERC Rules of Practice and Procedures.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said he believes that CENECO failed to convince the people about the reasonableness of the rate increase. Their presentation was not clear and the systems loss unexplainable, he said.
It was not really convincing and the problematic aspect is that out of the P75 million under-recoveries, about P50 million was incurred in 2011 alone, he added.
Colmenares said CENECO’s generation cost is high because it bought power from a source which is expensive when there are others that sell at a cheaper cost. “These are bad business decisions that CENECO should bear and it should not put the burden on the consumers,” he said.
CENECO general manager Sulpicio Lagarde Jr. said these under-recoveries are based on an ERC template, which means that they have the legal basis to collect them.
Had they been allowed to collect the right tariff, they would have been able to solve a lot of inefficiencies in the form of power interruption and in of low voltage, he said.
Lagarde said the CENECO area is one of the preferred sites for business locators if they plan to put up a business in Western Visayas. These locators are considering two sites- Iloilo and Bacolod, but Iloilo has higher electricity rate, he said.
“If the tipping point of their decision is the electricity rates, we could readily entice new locators, which would mean more employment and more employment means more money to be spent here that will trigger economic activity,” Lagarde added.
The hearing was attended by Permits and Division head Vicente Petierre III representing the Bacolod City government, Councilor Archie Baribar representing the Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod, Elinore Cabanilla representing the Social Action Center, power advocate Romeo Lavilla, representatives of Freedom From Debt Coalition, and civil society.*CGS