Power firms to pay debt

March 11, 2020

FIVE big energy sector companies have assured the House of Representatives that they would settle P46 billion in financial obligations to the government.

Earlier, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano questioned the failure of the House Committee on Energy chaired by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to conduct a hearing on the matter intended to collect billions of pesos owed by power firms.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, and Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado  invited Velasco to join the inquiry since his panel has jurisdiction on the matter.

The newest commitment came from South Premier Power Corp. (SPPC), a subsidiary of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp.

It was given Wednesday to the committee on public accounts and the committee on good government and public accountability, which are conducting an inquiry into more than P95 billion the state-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. has been collecting from SPPC and other energy producers and distributors.

Cayetano said the House, through its inquiries in aid of legislation, would raise at least P40 billion for the national treasury to help the government fund its programs, including containing the spread of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

SPPC general manger Elenita Go told the two committees that SPPC is offering to advance P22.6 billion in monthly payments to PSALM between this month up to June 2022.

She said the offer is “without prejudice” to the SMC subsidiary pursuing the case it filed against PSALM, which is pending with Branch 208 of    the Mandaluyong City regional trial court.

SPPC is contesting P23.9 billion in billings made by PSALM.

Go said the SMC affiliate would “pay cash” as soon as the government accepts its offer.

On top of the SPPC proposal, Defensor said four other companies have committed to settle or have settled P23.6 billion owed to PSALM.

He said the four are Manila Electric Company (Meralco), which has an indebtedness of P15 billion; Northern Renewables Generation Corp., which has paid P4.6 billion; FDC (Filinvest Development Corp.) Misamis Power Corp., which owes P2.6 billion; and FDC Utilities, Inc., which has a P1.2-billion debt.

“We can collect P15 billion from Meralco because the office of Solicitor General Jose Calida is willing to withdraw its motion for intervention that has delayed the implementation of the settlement agreement between Meralco and PSALM,” he said.

Defensor indicated that the House hearings prompted the electricity producers and distributors to pay their obligations.

“Since we started the inquiry, there has been a lot of movement in the energy sector. We have to help the government collect the huge indebtedness of P95.4 billion or this would eventually be absorbed by    Filipino consumers in terms of higher electricity rates,” he said.