Aboitiz Power welcomes power sector investigation

The top management of Aboitiz Power Corporation (AP) welcomed an investigation by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on alleged collusion among power industry players to jack up electricity prices.

In a briefing after the annual stockholders meeting of Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AVE) in Makati City Monday, AP Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Emmanuel V. Rubio said speculations that power players are deliberately disrupting power services need to be addressed.

“We believe it’s something that really needs to be clarified to erase speculations, perceptions of the market,” said Rubio, who takes over as the company’s Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2020, when current CEO Erramon Aboitiz retires.

Asked if he sees the need to implement reforms in the industry, he said this will be a good development.

“If there are actually reforms that will recommended as a conclusion of the investigation to improve the system then we welcome that,” he added.

The Luzon grid experienced low power reserves before the Holy Week after several power plants went on unplanned outages due to various reasons like having some parts that are not working.

This resulted in the issuance of yellow and red alerts for the Luzon grid and power outages in several areas.

PCC chairman Arsenio Balisacan, in a statement Monday, said the Commission is “looking into the recent series of shutdowns and assessing if it merits an investigation.”

“We look forward to the report that DOE (Department of Energy) will send us as it will help with our assessment,” he said.

Balisacan said the drop in reserves that resulted to power outages “sparked complaints from the public”, thus, “PCC shall assess whether the recent power plants’ outages are manipulated to increase electricity prices or are valid unplanned breakdowns that affect supply conditions.”

He explained that the Commission, under the Philippine Competition Act, is “mandated to promote fair market competition, prohibit anti-competitive behavior among businesses across sectors including the power sector, and advance consumer welfare in the process.”

He, thus, called on power generation companies to refrain from “engaging in anti-competitive or collusive behavior which is punishable by the competition law with fines of up to PHP250 million, and imprisonment of responsible officers of up to seven years.”

He also stressed that “while the PCC has primary and original jurisdiction over competition concerns, the antitrust commission acknowledges the technical expertise and regulatory functions of the DOE and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in overseeing the power industry.”

“With this, the PCC seeks to deepen its ties and advance its previous discussions with the DOE and ERC towards a Memorandum of Agreement in order to facilitate market competition and investigations in the power sector,” he said.

Balisacan also pointed out that the Energy department “has previously referred a similar matter” to the PCC.

“That is being treated as a separate investigation,” he added. (PNA)