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Osmeña’s ‘blame show’ skirted real issue

/ 02:24 AM March 28, 2014

It was like watching a child in a tantrum with all the lights and camera on. The press conference held last March 13 revealed Sen. Sergio Osmeña III’s true colors.

In that press conference, he called President Aquino “hardheaded” and an “awful manager.” He also called for the resignation of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla whom he blamed for the spike in electricity prices announced last November. Osmeña knows better. As cochair of the joint congressional power commission and chair of the Senate committee on energy, he is in a better position than most to understand how the business of the power industry works. But sad to say, instead of providing solutions or pointing out what the problem was, he played the blame game.

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The press conference was held a few days after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) voided the market transactions during the period the price hike was supposed to be in force. But instead of rejoicing or at least commending the ERC for issuing a decision that served the public interest, Osmeña decried the decision as “good politics but bad economics.”

I beg to disagree. The ERC decision showed rate regulation at work, ensuring the viable operation of public utilities. The lower price of electricity that resulted from this regulation would inevitably spur economic growth and stop businesses and investors who complained of high power rates from leaving the country, as we have seen many of them do in the past.

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These generation, transmission and distribution utilities perform a public service in behalf of the government, that is why they are regulated to protect consumers from unreasonable and unjust rates. So what is a few billion pesos less in their profits compared to the good they could have done to millions of electricity consumers? This would send a positive signal to potential investors that the regulated power industry is a safe and sound investment because regulators are competent in doing their job. It would send an even better signal to other potential investors to invest in the country because of the low cost of power.

Many of Osmeña’s colleagues in the committee, past and present, have sought to improve Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001. But except for a few hearings conducted by his committee, we have not heard Osmeña taking any position in relation to the law or any of its provisions.

The Osmeña “show” left us more confused than enlightened. It does seem he did not like the ERC decision that benefited the electricity consumers. To be sure, the ERC ruling was a blow to the generation companies that were set to make billions of profits had the price hike been okayed. Was the whole Osmeña act meant to assure the generation companies, which had been denied a windfall, that he was on their side?

—RAFAEL   M.  ACEBEDO,

[email protected]

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TAGS: bad economics, Benigno Aquino III, Energy Regulatory Commission, ERC, Jericho Petilla, politics, President Aquino, Senator Osmeña, Sergio Osmeña III
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