ERC asks Buseco to account for reconnection ‘other charges’

ERC asks Buseco to account for reconnection ‘other charges’

  MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/19 February) The Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered the Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative management to furnish them a copy of a list of consumers affected by its imposition of ‘other charges’ not approved by the commission on restoration of disconnected.

In a letter dated January 11 to Edgardo Masongsong, BUSECO General Manager, a copy of which was obtained by Bukidnon News recently, Francis Saturnino C. Juan, the ERC’s executive director, asked BUSECO to submit within 15 days a complete list of names of the affected consumers and the total amount of “other charges” collected.

Juan asked Masongsong to submit a copy under oath. The letter was received on February 10, 2012 and will be due on February 25. Bukidnon News sought for Masongsong’s comments but he did not grant requests for interviews on the issue.

Oliver Aldovino, BUSECO Director for Impasug-ong, said the order would lead to possible refund of the extra charges imposed on the consumers who applied for reconnection. He said the amount due for refund could be at least P1 million.

Earlier, to close its case before the commission over a complaint of alleged fee of ‘other charges’ the electric cooperative paid the sum of P100,000 as full payment in “satisfaction of the approved compromise in this case,” documents obtained by Bukidnon News show.

ERC cashier Mila Miranda received the payment of the amount with Official Receipt No. 9425124 on July 13, 2011. The decision came four months after the ERC has issued a show-cause order to BUSECO on March 23 asking the power distribution firm to explain why they should not be charged administratively for allegedly imposing other charges, including reconnection fee, without prior approval from the ERC.

BUSECO reportedly increased its reconnection fee beyond the approved unbundled rates as contained in the decision on December 29, 2003 in ERC Case No. 2001-929, the ERC noted.

From P40, Buseco has raised its reconnection fee to P625.34 and then to P943.77 since 2010. The ERC said these were not the approved amounts for “other charges.”

“This constitutes a clear violation of the aforementioned decision of the Commission particularly on Items I.C and II.B.5,” it added.

The order, signed by Francis Saturnino C. Juan, Executive Director III of ERC, was issued on March 23, 2011 in Pasig City.

BUSECO denied having violated the approved “other charges”.

“BUSECO did not increase its Reconnection Fee of P40.00 which remains the same, what was recovered by BUSECO was merely the actual incidental costs and expenses necessary to effect the disconnection and reconnection,” the firm said in its response to ERC, a copy of which was furnished to this reporter.

The ERC receipt issued on July 13 cited that the money was full payment for penalty based on the commission’s decision on ERC Case No. 2011-025 MC on “the imposition of other charges without approval of the commission.”

BUSECO remained unyielding of the allegations.

In its formal offer of “compromise settlement” to ERC, Eleuterio Diao IV, the firm’s counsel, wrote that the payment was offered in order to “buy peace without admission of any violation of the ERC regulatory rules as regards to other fees and charges.”

The compromise settlement came out after the preliminary conference of the ERC’s Regulatory Operations Services (ROS), Diao cited.

The ERC ordered on July 18, five days after the payment, the closure of the case as it acknowledged the receipt of the P100,000 compromise settlement as “satisfaction of the approved compromised” in the case.

But critics said something could be wrong of the decision.

“It’s one thing that has to be investigated,” Rep. Crecente Paez, of the Cooperative-National Confederation of Cooperatives (Coop-NATCCO) party list said.

Paez, who spoke at the Bukidnon Power Consumers Forum organized in September by the Cooperative Development Authority, the Provincial Cooperative Development Council and the Association of Consumers of Electricity, said even the deal should be checked.

Back in March 2011, the ERC ordered Buseco to submit an explanation under oath “why no administrative penalty” should be imposed or “criminal action” be instituted against its Directors and Officers for imposing such charges.”(Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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