Etsapwera ERC! Power rates in La Union up as Michael Escaler’s firm deals directly with Aboitiz for power supply

The power distribution firm owned by sugar baron Michael Escaler in La Union has been found to be dealing directly with Aboitiz Power Renewables Inc (APRI) for its supply, bypassing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

During the Senate energy committee’s hearing Monday (march 20), the ERC said Escaler’s San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company (SFELAPCO) didn’t seek its approval for the deal with APRI, which reportedly led to P654 million in erroneously collected charges from SFELAPCO customers.

Escaler also owns All-Asian Countertrade, one of three importers whom Senator Risa Hontiveros alleged were “favored” to bring in additional sugar imports from Thailand before an importation order was issued by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Hontiveros said All Asian Countertrade, Sucden Philippines Inc., and Edison Lee Marketing Corporation possibly earned “super profits” amounting to billions of pesos from the supposed sugar importation.

In SFELAPCO’s defense, its general manager, Jose Lazatin, explained that it was the ERC which has yet to resolve its pending request for approval since 2013. He also denied that the company raked in P654 million in profits from the AboitizPower deal, saying the additional charges were pass on generation costs.

The committee chairman, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, called out SFELAPCO for its failure to go through the competitive selection process before its deal with APRI expired last year. He said the move resulted in an alleged sweetheart deal with GN Power, which jacked up power rates by 50 percent in La Union starting February 2023.