By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has stepped into allegations of collusion and manipulation among power plants amid a series of shutdowns among power plants that may have contributed to price increase in the retail electricity market.
The PCC, the anti-trust authority in the country, has warned power generation companies from engaging in anti-competitive or collusive behavior which is punishable by the competition law with fines of up to P250 million, and imprisonment of responsible officers of up to seven years.
In a statement, PCC noted of the recent spate of scheduled and forced outages in Luzon by different power plants has reportedly reduced power reserves. These outages, PCC said, have caused calls for red or yellow alerts, and induced rotating brownouts, which in turn sparked complaints from the public.
“The PCC shall assess whether the recent power plants’ outages are manipulated to increase electricity prices or are valid unplanned breakdowns that affect supply conditions,” the PCC said.
Emmanuel V. Rubio, Aboitiz Power Corp., said they welcomed the PCC move to erase speculations, perceptions of the market. He said the PCC investigation will ensure the integrity of the market and all its stakeholders.
Among the power sector players, the biggest is San Miguel Corp. followed by Aboitiz and First Gen Power.
Under the Philippine Competition Act, the PCC is mandated to promote fair market competition, prohibit anti-competitive behavior among businesses across sectors including the power sector, and advance consumer welfare in the process.
The Commission, through its enforcement unit, welcomes the call for technical reports or audits by the Department of Energy (DOE) over the concerned power plants and their control rooms, as well as any lead or information from the public or experts in the field.
While the PCC has primary and original jurisdiction over competition concerns, the antitrust commission acknowledges the technical expertise and regulatory functions of the DOE and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in overseeing the power industry.
With this, the PCC seeks to deepen its ties and advance its previous discussions with the Department of Energy and Energy Regulatory Commission towards a Memorandum of Agreement in order to facilitate market competition and investigations in the power sector.