Competition commissioner weighing possibility of collusion in grid outages

PHILSTAR

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said it is looking into whether the recent power outages on the Luzon Grid are the result of collusion, as part of a broader investigation involving the Justice and Energy departments.

“The outages may result from many sources. Obviously, if it is an outcome of collusive practices, that’s terrain for the PCC,” PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan told ANC Wednesday. Outages caused by natural factors are outside the commission’s mandate.

The grid was recently placed on red alert for three consecutive days after a series of unscheduled power plant outages, causing a spike in market prices.

The Energy Regulatory Commission said it will order generation companies to explain the interruptions. A commission task force has scheduled four plants for technical inspection.

“We’ll do (the investigation) as fast as we can to contribute to the resolution of this case,” Mr. Balisacan said.

“Our mandate is to prevent anti-competitive practices, so if these are things emanating out of abusive practices in such a way that the players can enhance their profits, then obviously that’s a thing for PCC and we will investigate the matter.”

Meanwhile, an Udenna Corp. unit’s acquisition of Shell Petroleum N.V.’s stake of the Malampaya gas field could still be assessed after a pause in the review, he said.

Compulsory notification on all mergers and acquisitions with transaction value of below P50 billion is suspended for two years from the effectivity of Republic Act No. 11494, informally known as Bayanihan II, which was signed in September. The law also suspended the PCC’s review of these transactions, conducted on its own initiative, for a year.

The PCC is monitoring the market while it awaits the resumption of its own assessment of transactions below the threshold value in September.

“We encourage players, if in doubt about the nature of the transaction, (to have a) free consultation with the PCC,” Mr. Balisacan said.

“If there are reasons to believe that there is an element anti-competitive practice there then we will exercise our motu propio review power.” — Jenina P. Ibañez