The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) virtually betrayed the people when it asked to be excused from justifying Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike, an increase the government has approved and the highest power rate hike in Philippine history.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmarinas City, Chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, expressed such sentiments a day after the Supreme Court denied OSG’s motion seeking to be excused from filing comments on behalf of state-run Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) on the petition vs. Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike that the ERC approved but was later stayed by the High Court with a Temporary Restraining Order.
In its motion denied by the High Court, the OSG argued that it is the ERC and the DOE which should defend Meralco’s move.
“The OSG abandoned its mandate to respond in behalf of the ERC and the DOE on the petitions vs. the Meralco rate hike when it asked to be excused. I cannot understand the legal step taken by the OSG, considering that before the petition was lodged against the Meralco rate hike, the government said they can’t do anything about it,” Barzaga, a member of the National Unity party allied with President Benigno Aquino’s ruling Liberal Party, stressed.
The denial of OSG’s move resulted in the Supreme Court ordering the OSG to file and serve a comment on the petitions on or before January 17 by personal service and attend the initial preliminary conference on January 13.
“It is the mandate of the OSG as government representative to explain why the ERC and the Department of Energy allowed the very high power rate adjustments of Meralco. Aren’t they [OSG officials] convinced by the actions taken by ERC and DOE in allowing Meralco to impose huge electricity rate increase?,” Barzaga added.
In allowing Meralco to increase their rates in unprecedented level, the ERC invoked Article 8, Section 1 of the Automatic Generation Rate Adjustment which provides that the “ERC may allow an exception from provisions of these Guidelines, if such exception is found to be in the public interest and is not contrary to law or any other related rules and regulations.”
On the brighter side of things, Barzaga welcomed the Supreme Court’s move on the inclusion of the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) and power generation companies as defendants in the petitions vs. the unprecedented Meralco power rate hike.
PEMC is the operator of electricity trading flood Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), while the power generation companies include: SEM Calaca Power Corp., Masinloc Power Partners Corp., Therma Luzon, Inc., San Miguel Energy Corp., South Premiere Power Corp., and Therma Mobile, Inc., all of which have power supply contracts with Meralco.
Meralco has justified its power rate hike by citing the Malampaya natural gas plant shutdown from November to December coinciding with the unscheduled maintenance shutdown of certain power plants such as: Sual 1, Calaca 1, Masinloc 1, GN Power 1 and 2, Masinloc 1 and 2 and Ilijan plants.
Per Meralco, the outage in the Malampaya natural gas plant has prompted them to get their power supply from liquid gas which is way more expensive (P4.23 to P6.21 per kilowatt hour) compared with natural gas (P1.53 to P1.54 per kilowatt hour). Likewise, Meralco also purchased power from the WESM at a price of P33.24 per kilowatt hour.
“This [inclusion of PEMC and power generation companies]is a welcome relief to consumers battling the soaring power rates at the time when allegations of collusion are very strong. Power producers are behind the spike in power rates and the Supreme Court was just establishing the logic of alleged collusion,” Barzaga said.
“The Supreme Court made the right decision. The spike on power rates started from their [power plants]adjustments. They should explain,” Barzaga added. LLANESCA T. PANTI