THE Supreme Court (SC) has granted the petition filed by electricity consumers seeking to stop the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) from implementing regulations in connection with the retail electricity market.

In an en banc session on Tuesday, the SC magistrates issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the petitioners in the case: Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, San Beda College Alabang, Inc., Ateneo de Manila University, and Riverbanks Development Corporation.

"The Court issued a temporary restraining order effective immediately and until further orders from the Court restraining the respondent Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission, its agents, representatives, and all persons acting in their place or stead from implementing DOE Circular No. DC-2015-06-0010, series of 2015, ERC Resolution No. 5, Series of 2016, ERC Resolution No. 10, Series of 2016, ERC Resolution No. 11, Series of 2016, and ERC Resolution No. 28, Series of 2016," the decision stated.

The said resolutions compelled consumers with a monthly average peak demand of 1 Megawatt (MW) to leave their current power supply contracts and enter into a new retail supply contract with any of the 23 accredited electric suppliers chosen by the ERC.

The SC, in its decision, said that the "petitioners have established a clear, legal right to the TRO considering that the Epira Law provides for the voluntary migration of end-users to the contestable market and there appears to be no basis for the mandatory migration being ordered by the DOE and the ERC through the questioned issuances."

Furthermore, the high court also noted the urgent need to issue a TRO as the ERC has imposed a deadline on February 26, 2017 for end-users to enter into a retail supply contract with accredited retail electricity suppliers.

"If a TRO is not issued, the petition will become moot and petitioners stand to suffer grave and irreparable injury because they will be disconnected from the distribution utility or made to pay a supplier of last resort a 10% premium between the higher contract cost and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market," the SC said.

Named respondents to the case were Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, ERC Chair Jose Vicente Salazar, ERC Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana. (SunStar Philippines)