High Court Affirms ERC’s Decision on INEC’s Over Recoveries
In a 21-page Decision pertinent to G.R. No. 246940 (INEC vs. ERC) released on 3 February 2022, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) Decision issued in relation to ERC Case No. 2011-023 CF re: Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s (INEC) Application for Approval of Over/Under Recoveries Based on the Formulae on the Various Automatic Cost Adjustments and True-up Mechanisms and Corresponding Confirmation Process Pursuant to ERC Resolution No. 16, Series of 2009, as Amended by Resolution No 24, Series of 2010. The assailed ERC Decision directed INEC to refund to its customers some PhP480 Million representing the over-recoveries in its electric billings for the years 2004 to 2010.“The Supreme Court’s Decision is not only a victory for ERC, but more importantly a victory for the consumers. This shows that our regulatory policies have the consumers’ welfare in mind - that is to protect their interests by ensuring that what was charged and collected from them are but reasonable and accurate rates,”
ERC Chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera said.
INEC, in its application docketed as ERC Case No. 2011-023 CF, sought the ERC’s approval to refund a total over-recovery of some PhP8 Million covering the years 2004 until 2010. Upon evaluation, however, the ERC-computed an over-recovery in the amount of PhP480 M. INEC, upon ERC’s denial of its Motion f0r Reconsideration (MR), filed a Petition for Review before the Court of Appeals (CA). The CA, however affirmed ERC’s Decision and denied INEC’s Petition for Review. Thus, INEC elevated the matter to the SC with a Petition for Review on Certiorari to which the SC ruled and affirmed the ERC and CA’s respective Decisions.
The SC in its Decision argued, among others, that findings of administrative or regulatory agencies on matters within their technical area of expertise are generally accorded not only respect but finality as such findings are supported by substantial evidence. Furthermore, the SC ruled that the CA has correctly ruled that INEC cannot demand the ERC to intricately explain its Decision as long as it had sufficiently shown the bases and formulae used for computing the over-recoveries and provided INEC with ample opportunity to raise its objections thereto.
“Once again, the ERC’s regulatory policies have been proven to be robust, legally-defensible, and consumer-oriented. We will always adhere to our mandate of protecting all consumers and promote public welfare as they are affected by the rates and services of Distribution Utilities and other providers of electric power, and that is consumer empowerment,”
ERC Chair Devanadera concluded.