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‘Stop congestion charges, refund customers’

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The Energy Regulatory Commission, in response to complaints of Western Visayas electric consumers on significant increase in the electricity rates originating from the damaged submarine cable of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, ordered the Philippine Electricity Spot Market Corporation, to stop the collecting congestion and other applicable charges attributable to the line outage.

ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera, in her September 20 letter to PEMC president Leonido Pulido III, said that the significant increases in electricity billings have been decried by many stakeholders in Negros and Panay, as unreasonable burden to consumers and businesses.

The action taken by Devanadera also came after Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia made an appeal before the ERC to immediately look into the increase in power rates in service areas under the Central Negros Electric Cooperative.

Seven Negros Occidental solons and three other Iloilo lawmakers also pushed for a congressional inquiry on the power rates hike of various electric cooperatives in Western Visayas.

Devanadera said that the damaging of the Cebu-Negros Submarine Cable was not caused by the consumers, but rather by negligence, which responsible parties should be made to account for.

The Electric Cooperatives Association of Region 6 (ECAR), of which Central Negros, Northern Negros and Negros Occidental Electric Cooperatives are members, explained that a major factor in the spike of electricity rates for August originated from the damaged submarine cable of the NGCP connecting Cebu to Negros to Panay, causing imbalances of power requirement intended electric cooperatives in the region automatically supplied the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

The NGCP reported that submarine cable damage was caused by the amphibious dredging of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the mouth of Bio-os River in Brgy. Pondol, Amlan, Negros Oriental.

The NGCP, according to Devanadera, estimates the completion of repairs as anytime between October 2023, or as late as 26 months from now.

With this development, Devanadera said that the Commission has no recourse but to impose measures that will mitigate the impact on consumers in affected areas.

The ERC chairperson ordered PEMC to stop the collection from customers, of congestion charges and other applicable charges, including but not limited to line rentals, attributable to the outage of the Cebu-Negros submarine cable, until the complete restoration and operationalization of the transmission line.

Devanadera also ordered a refund to customers on congestion charges and other applicable charges, which already collected for the billing months of June to August this year, as well as deferment of payment congestion and other related charges to generation companies affected by the subject incident, until the complete restoration of the transmission line.*

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