New ERC chair’s first order of the day: Synergy


By Victor V. Saulon

AGNES V.S.T. Devanadera does not expect her predecessor to raise any issue with her appointment as chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), saying that she had a hand in giving Jose Vicente B. Salazar a break in government service.

“With regards to my predecessor, I don’t think we’ll have that kind of issue because when I came in the Department of Justice (DoJ) as acting secretary, I brought him along with me as my undersecretary for projects funded by international funding agencies,” she told reporters.

Ms. Devanadera was named acting secretary of the DoJ in September 2007 under the Arroyo administration, when then secretary Raul M. Gonzales was ill.

“So I don’t think we’ll have that kind of difficulties and the President has spoken,” she said. “Sabi naman sa akin mag-trabaho ka. Huwag ka nang makipag away. Trabaho lang (I was told to do my work. Don’t fight with anyone. Simply work).

Ms. Devanadera replaced Mr. Salazar, who was ordered dismissed as ERC chairman and chief executive officer by Malacañang on Oct. 6 after he was found guilty of simple and grave misconduct. Mr. Salazar said he intends to tap legal options to bring out the truth and obtain the justice due to him.

A former solicitor general and government corporate counsel, Ms. Devanadera was appointed ERC chair by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Nov. 22. Her appointment covers a term expiring on July 10, 2022.

She said her priority at the ERC on her first day of work on Monday, Dec. 4, is “synergy among the workers in ERC so that the institution can move faster and the institution can be part of the team in the energy sector that we think can deliver the services better.”

“As we observed during the JCPC (Joint Congressional Power Commission) meeting, there seem to be a lot but there are many other factors that we have to consider. So now that I saw … now that I am the head starting Monday, that will be the immediate direction and order of the day — put the house in order.”

“And I think if we have the right synergy, then the institution will move a lot faster,” she added.

Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said he is “hopeful” when asked to comment about Ms. Devanadera’s appointment.

“I’m sure that she will be leading ERC energized because she was also on vacation for some time,” he said.

The DoE and the ERC will be working closely after Mr. Cusi said during the JCPC meeting that he had signed a regulation that would seek to move forward rules on retail competition and open access (RCOA).

The department circular called on the ERC to craft guidelines on contentious issues such the “unbundling” of retail electricity supply (RES) business of power distribution utilities.

In effect, the new circular will tweak provisions of previous regulations that are on hold after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on their enforcement.

Ms. Devanadera said the country’s highest court “can be very open” on some issues.

“Depende (It depends). In my experience, there were times when the issues were mooted but the Supreme Court still came up with a long decision to discuss the issues,” she said.

“There were incidents where the Supreme Court simply resolved the case by saying that it has been moot and academic and therefore no further discussion is necessary. So let’s see. We don’t want to preempt,” she added.

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