ERC finds Waterfront guilty of pilferage-A A +A
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) ordered Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino Inc. to pay the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) P38.9 million for the almost seven million kilowatt-hours it consumed but were not registered in the power utility’s billing for Feb. 19 to 26, 2011.
The ERC, in its July 18, 2013 decision, found prima facie evidence of illegal use of electricity by the hotel as indicated in cut wires that connect to the Veco meter.
Veco corporate communications manager Theresa Gonzales-Sederiosa said that on Sept. 5, Waterfront paid the amount stated in the ERC order.
Since Veco considers the issue settled, she said the power utility firm will no longer revive the pilferage case it filed earlier against the hotel management.
In November 2011, Veco filed a criminal complaint against Waterfront in an attempt to collect P168 million from the hotel management. The case, however, was dismissed by the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office for lack of basis.
Waterfront sent Sun.Star Cebu a one-line press statement via e-mail, saying the “issue has been resolved since Friday (Sept. 6).”
Apart from the P38.9 million, the ERC also ordered Waterfront to pay a surcharge equivalent to 25 percent of its Feb. 26-March 26, 2011 bill.
The ERC ruling was dated July 18, 2013 but it was docketed only on Sept. 2.
The decision stemmed from a complaint filed by Waterfront on April 6, 2011, contesting Veco's allegation that it violated Republic Act (RA) 7832 or the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994.
Veco accused Waterfront of splicing the wires at its 69-kilovolt substation resulting in unregistered power consumption amounting to P168.7 million for the period August 2007 to February 2011.
The ERC ruled that Waterfront was guilty of “the act of pilferage” but it disagreed with Veco’s computation on the unbilled amount.
In its 18-page decision, ERC said only 33 percent of the hotel’s power consumption was not registered in the Veco meter. It allowed Veco to recover only one year’s worth of the hotel’s consumption.
ERC also noted that Veco failed to detect and report the unregistered consumption earlier.
ERC said Veco’s power metering department discovered the unregistered consumption only in February 2011 when it conducted a routine check on Waterfront’s meter.
It said it is incumbent upon Veco as a public utility “to be vigilant in the conduct of its operations by performing routine inspections … to ensure that its metering facilities are in good working condition and reflect the accurate consumption” of its customers.
“Its failure to detect constitutes negligence, which bars it from claiming differential billing as far back as four years prior to the discovery,” it said.
At the rate of P5.743 per kilowatt-hour, the cost of 6,776,390 kilowatts is P38,916,808, according to the ERC decision.
“The Commission (ERC) finds complainant (Waterfront Hotel) to have consumed electricity that was not registered in the billing/kilowatt-hour meter due to an altered metering facility,” read the ERC decision.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2013.