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ERC gives Chamber, City 20 days to file opposition

Believe it or not, but Ormoc City, a host community to geothermal plants and recipient of millions of subsidies, still has 67 sitios that do not have electricity. Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez, in the little she can do to help in this area, energized at least five sitios in RM Tan and Airport on Saturday, January 28, saying she believes that having electricity would spur progress in a particular locality. Max Torcinde, ISD manager of Leyeco V, is seen on the microphone (lower picture) emphasizing in his announcement that the project was really through Lucy’s efforts, apparently trying to avoid a repeat of a past energization, the credit of which was grabbed from Lucy by her political rivals.

THE ORMOC City Chamber of Commerce and the City Government have been given 20 days by the Energy Regulatory Commission to file their position papers as oppositors of the application of Leyte Electric Cooperative V for a 77-centavo hike on power rate in the next five years, intended to fund P 1.045-billion worth of capital expenditures.
ERC commissioner Atty. Ronaldo Gomez, who presided over the second hearing of the application on January 25 (Wednesday) initially gave the City Government, represented by Barangay Affairs officer Ben Matiga five days, but upon persuasion of the Chamber to be given more time to come up with an intelligent opposition, was also given the same period of 20 days.
Businessman Iñigo Larrazabal said that the ERC should give the chamber more time, considering that the public was not well-informed about the application. He enumerated that everybody was caught by surprise about the application and that even Leyeco V’s lawyer says the requisite publication and posting have been complied with, “compliance may be what is right under the law but might not be what is just”.
Pete Ilagan of NASECORE, on the other hand, filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that ERC is not the proper body to hear the application because its job is to set the rates and not to grant applications for CapEx.  Even as he moved that the hearing is suspended, pending the resolution of the motion to dismiss, the ERC ordered its continuance.
Leyeco V was then given the floor to present its application, while Ilagan asked questions almost line by line, pointing out lumpsum appropriations which he said were not transparent. The hearing went up to around 4:00 PM.
At this juncture, Ilagan pulled a surprise when asked by the ERC who will his witnesses be. He said they would be board president Joselito Yap, treasurer Adelina Y. Larrazabal, Lito David, Amparo Bonghanoy and Lamitz Pañares.
Leyeco V manager Engr. Juanito Jorda and lawyer Atty. Gula were fast to ask who would foot their traveling expense, in case the next hearing would be held in Manila. Jorda said he will not allow the expense to be charged to Leyeco V.
ERC officer Gomez also said while he cannot say as of that afternoon where the next hearing would be, there was the possibility it would be held in ERC-Manila.
The ERC officer also informed those present that while the Chamber and the City have been recognized as oppositors, it is only the NASECORE represented then by its president Pete Ilagan, that is the legit intervenor and allowed to cross the witnesses presented. However, he gave the assurance that all positions would be taken into consideration and historically, ERC studies such applications closely and usually adjusts the proposed increases.
On the other hand, Ben Matiga said he was just requested to attend the hearing that morning, because city legal officer Atty. Augustine Vestil Jr. was not around. However, from what he understands, the city is already prepared with its opposition. In presenting the city’s intention to become an oppositor, Matiga told the ERC that “we’ve heard information that Leyeco is making P 15 to P 20-million a month” and the city is keen on knowing whether there is really a need to have an increase. Of the LGU’s under Leyeco V, Ormoc consumers would be hardest hit because it is where the biggest electricity users are. The impact of the 77-centavo increase on current rates would be around 10 percent.
It was not made clear if councilor Jose Alfaro Jr. would pursue his plan to sponsor a resolution to ask ERC to hold hearings on the matter in Ormoc, and that the city would be glad to led its multi-purpose center at the city hall.
Joel Brazil, Ormoc Chamber president, also said the 20-day period given should be enough. “We actually have the financial analysis ready for presentation to the lawyer or lawyers who will make the opposition for us”, he said. By Lalaine M. Jimenea

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