The beautiful and feisty City of San Fernando Mayor Vilma Caluag has arrived in the political landscape of this capital city with both guns blazing. Against formidable political opponents, Caluag has charmed the electorate and continues to do so with audacity. But what won the hearts of Fernandinos was her recent spat with the local power distributor — San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company (SFELAPCO) – whom she dragged all the way to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for a no nonsense inquiry.
And she won!
Yes against all odds, Caluag is apparently winning on all sides while sashaying with her flamboyant clothes that she wears with so much flair. Where no local chief executives dare investigate for public good, Caluag waded into the unknown and in the process uncovered more alleged shenanigans that needed redress.
On June 1, 2023, the ERC has denied the Motion for Reconsideration of the SFELAPCO questioning its decision urging the local power distributor to make a refund to some 127,000 consumer-households in the City of San Fernando.
ERC said SFELAPCO’s “filing of its Motion for Reconsideration did not prevent the said Decision from becoming executory as there was no Stay Order issued by the Commission.”
Thus, SFELAPCO will now have to pay up. And that’s a whopping P2,424,321,874.87 moolah – P654,397,381.48 representing “Other Charges”; and P1,769,924,493.39 representing the collected generation charges from January 2013 up to December 2022. Divide the money to the 127,000 consumers and they could expect a financial windfall from the heavens.
But the intriguing question now comes – will SFELAPCO make a refund? Will SFELAPCO require AP Renewables Inc of the Aboitiz Group to return the collected generation charges? SFELAPCO telling Aboitiz to return the moolah is like shooting for the moon. Thus, a criminal case against SFELAPCO is in the offing.
ERC has warned SFELAPCO management its “continued refusal to comply with its decision” directing them to refund some P2.4 billion in unapproved charges, may compel them to file a criminal action. ERC has warned SFELAPCO that it would be compelled “to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for possible filing of criminal action against the Board of Directors and Officers of SFELAPCO pursuant to Section 46 of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).”
When that happens, SFELAPCO is expected to strain its partnership with Aboitiz because the latter will not simply return the collected generation costs without exerting legal remedies.
But for now, Caluag is in cloud nine. So elated that CSF’s “Joan of Arc” claiming the ERC decision being “executory,” the local power distributor will pay up soon. And Caluag will up the ante by holding a protest march to further protect the interests of the consuming public. Caluag with her arresting smile simply had balls of steel.
During the press briefing at the Heroes Hall in the City of San Fernando, Caluag was beeming with confidence and bravado. This is not a small victory. This is big victory for the Fernandinos. And it also proved her audacity in the face of challenges and from all indications it now made her an effective leader like no other.