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FIRING LINE: Monopolizing the energy sector

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

There have not just been a few times that consumers have raised the specter of a looming monopoly with what now appears as a regulatory capture of the three leading agencies in the energy sector.

For them, there are no longer checks and balances in the power industry following the appointment of Raphael Lotilla as secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE), Monalisa Dimalanta as chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and Dennis de la Serna as president and CEO of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation, also a wholly-owned and -controlled government entity.

That’s a grand slam of the government’s three most important roles in the power business.

*         *         *

That’s a complete lock, actually.

Lotilla is now in charge of policy-making, Dimalanta of regulatory, and Dela Serna of policy compliance covering power generation and sale.

Sounds innocent? Not until you know that they all worked together under the Aboitiz Group — one of the major players in the power industry.

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Lotilla was an independent director of the Aboitiz Power Corp., and Dimalanta was the same company’s Compliance Officer who worked under Dela Serna, the Aboitiz Power Corp.’s vice president.

Their boss, Aboitiz Group president and CEO Sabin Aboitiz, had also been appointed as President Bongbong Marcos’s lead man for his Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC).

Conflict of interest must be raised here. Is it just imagined that the one who exerts control on the government agency triumvirate can influence the execution of policies and regulations, as well as decide on the Terms of Reference required for every competitive selection process?

That means a lack of competition benefits the sponsor, but it will lead to higher costs of electricity to consumers.

*         *         *

The economy is at stake here if President Junior will not give this anomalous situation in the power sector a second glance. Or is government now invested in playing Aboitiz’s hand all the way?

BBM knows very well that lack of competition would force the other players to close shop, and it will significantly impact the economy and employment, especially at this time when the country is feeling the shock of a worldwide decline brought about by many factors.

*         *         *

Also expected to feel the shock are the other industries, including the most basic economic drivers like cement, steel, fuel, and oil, which are needed for continuous development.

Poverty is expected to balloon, too, if these are not arrested.

All these because the sector now appears to have been held hostage by just one group. And it does not give a good reflection of the Marcos 2.0 leadership.

*         *         *

SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://www.thephilbiznews.com

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