Hontiveros backs proposal to refund collected fees for NGCP’s unfinished projects

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed support for a lawmaker’s call to seek a refund on uncompleted projects of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

“I have been pushing for a refund since the 18th Congress, when we discovered NGCP’s unconscionable greed with its reward payouts, tax breaks, and high returns because of its high WACC (weighted average cost of capital),” she said in a statement Monday.

Hontiveros said the government must implement “strong penalties,” such as a refund or issuance of stocks to consumers, to ensure industry players will not abuse their position.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian floated this suggestion during a radio interview, where he stressed that the NGCP must not only refund the charges, it also needs to face a penalty.

Gatchalian also mentioned that he already approached the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to know how much has been charged to consumers for the NGCP’s unfinished projects.

ERC earlier said the NGCP has 72 delayed projects across the country.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero said anyone who wants to secure a refund or compensation must directly go to the ERC.

“Anything and everything in our electric bill has to be approved by the ERC… This, therefore, begs the question… If it is indeed illegal, why did/has the ERC allowed it?” Escudero said.

“They are barking at the wrong tree because businesses will always look for and seek a profit and you can't blame them for it because that is their nature. On the other hand, it is the job and mandate of regulatory agencies to prevent/correct abuses in the market, especially in a highly regulated sector such as power,” he said.

At a Senate hearing last week, lawmakers questioned the NGCP over its excessive dividends for shareholders, stressing the amount should have been allotted for power development.

READ: Senators question NGCP's excessive dividends despite delayed projects

The NGCP is 40% owned by the Chinese state-owned State Grid Corporation, while 60% is held by investment group Synergy Grid and Development Philippines of Henry Sy Jr. and Roberto Coyiuto Jr.