• Belmonte pins blame over power rate hike on Meralco, power plants

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    The blame over the P4.15 per kilowatt hour Manila Electric Company (Meralco) rate hike is on Meralco and the power plants which went on maintenance shutdown coinciding with the Malampaya natural gas plant outage, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City said Thursday.

    Belmonte made the stance a day after the probe of the House Committee on Energy on the Meralco power rate hike revealed the year 2013 had enough power supply but Meralco sought for a P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate—eclipsing its P2.00 per kilowatt hour rate increase in 2010 when there was power shortage.

    When Meralco sought the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for the P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike last year, it cited that the Malampaya shutdown that coincided with the simultaneous scheduled, extended and unplanned outages in other power plants have forced Meralco to buy costlier power from diesel powered sources and the West Electricity Spot Market.

    “Why do these power plants have to schedule their maintenance all at the same time and coinciding with the Malampaya when it they could have done it on a staggered basis? As for Meralco, there were scheduled outages. They could have devised a plan to address the situation in advance. But they didn’t do it. Why is the lack of concern?,” Belmonte said in a press conference.

    “Where is their [Meralco] foresight? They could have alleviated the situation, ask the power plants to take turns in scheduling outage. But Meralco announced their rate hike even before they ask the approval of the ERC as if the approval of the ERC is a long foregone conclusion,” Belmonte, a lawyer, stressed.

    Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas City, for his part, argued that Meralco’s actions prove that it does not deserve to be granted the permission to impose the P4.15 per kilowatt power rate hike which is the highest in Philippine history.

    “Meralco has not shown the specific data representing the alleged increase in its generation cost on account of the shutdown of the Malampaya plant and other power plants to the House and the Senate which have been conducting inquiries on this,” Barzaga argued in a separate text message.

    “In the spirit of transparency and accountability, Meralco should present documents that states the actual increase in its generation cost specifying the kilowatts purchased, the amount and the power producing plants in order to justify the amount of P22 billion which it seeks to recover form its 3.5 million customers,” Barzaga added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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