Bukidnon electric coop pays off violation at ERC

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – The Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative’s (BUSECO) case before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) over a complaint of alleged charging of “other fees” is now ordered closed after the electric cooperative paid the sum of P100,000 as full payment in “satisfaction of the approved compromise in this case,” documents obtained by MindaNews show.

ERC cashier Mila Miranda received the payment on July 13, 2011 with Official Receipt No. 9425124. The decision came four months after the ERC issued a show-cause order to BUSECO on March 23, asking the power distribution firm to explain why it should not be charged administratively for allegedly imposing other charges, including reconnection fee, without prior approval from the ERC.

BUSECO reportedly increased its reconnection fee beyond the approved unbundled rates as contained in the decision on December 29, 2003 in ERC Case No. 2001-929, the ERC noted.

From P40, BUSECO raised its reconnection fee to P625.34 and then to P943.77 since 2010. The ERC said these were not the approved amounts for “other charges.”

“This constitutes a clear violation of the aforementioned decision of the Commission particularly on Items I.C and II.B.5,” it added.

The order, signed by Francis Saturnino C. Juan, Executive Director III of ERC, was issued on March 23, 2011 in Pasig City. BUSECO denied having violated the approved “other charges”.

“BUSECO did not increase its Reconnection Fee of P40 which remains the same, what was recovered by BUSECO was merely the actual incidental costs and expenses necessary to effect the disconnection and reconnection,” the firm said in its response to ERC, a copy of which was furnished to this reporter.

The ERC receipt issued on July 13 cited that the money was full payment for penalty based on the commission’s decision on ERC Case No. 2011-025 MC on “the imposition of other charges without approval of the commission.”

BUSECO remained unyielding of the allegations.

In its formal offer of “compromise settlement” to ERC, Eleuterio Diao IV, the firm’s counsel, wrote that the payment was offered in order to “buy peace without admission of any violation of the ERC regulatory rules as regards to other fees and charges.”

The compromise settlement came out after the preliminary conference of the ERC’s Regulatory Operations Services (ROS), Diao cited.

The ERC ordered on July 18, five days after the payment, the closure of the case as it acknowledged the receipt of the P100,000 compromise settlement as “satisfaction of the approved compromised” in the case.

Sources who attended the Bukidnon Power Consumers Forum on Sept. 10 opined that BUSECO management should not pass on the amount as cost of the consumers and to appear in their electric bill.

But critics said something could be wrong.

“It’s one thing that has to be investigated,” Rep. Crecente Paez, of the Cooperative-National Confederation of Cooperatives (Coop-NATCCO) party list, said.

Paez, who spoke at the forum organized by the Cooperative Development Authority, the Provincial Cooperative Development Council and the Association of Consumers of Electricity, said even the deal should be checked.

He vowed to cause the investigation of the matter in the House of Representatives. Leonard Leyros, BUSECO public relations officer, said they will answer the allegations in the “right time.”

Last March, the ERC ordered BUSECO to submit an explanation under oath “why no administrative penalty” should be imposed or “criminal action” be instituted against its directors and officers for imposing such charges.”(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)