SAYING the rate hike imposed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is “unjustifiable,” Filipinos directly impacted by the increase called for a “people power” protest.
The Manila Times conducted a random interview to get a feel of the public sentiment about the rate increase, the highest ever imposed.
Normand Gordula from Taguig City said the increase is “too much.” He criticized the government for not trying to stop the rate hike.
“The government seems to have approved the power rate hike because it did not even meddle to stop Meralco from imposing it,” Gordula said.
Erwin Jaboyo from Makati City is willing to participate in a massive protest rally to express his outrage at the power rate hike.
“We should perhaps stage people power to stop the power rate hike,” he said in Filipino.
Richard Feliciano considers the rate hike “not only unbearable to the taxpayers but also highly questionable.”
“It is an unnecessary burden in the midst of all the controversies on pork barrel,” he added.
Ruby Castro from Valenzuela City said the rate increase is deplorable because it was implemented just weeks after the rates of cooking gas and petroleum products went up.
Juliet Singson from Manila said the government should expect the public’s anger over its failure to prevent the power rate increase.
“We bear the inutility of our government in preventing exorbitant power rate hikes,” she said.
Jenny Huertas from Rizal believes thousands of power consumers would take to the streets in protest.
Gary Joson, Joubert de Guzman, Sonia Pelayo and Christine Moreno expressed the same view.
They were reacting to the column of former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao saying that Filipinos should be angry over the imposition of a P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate increase.
Tiglao said the power rate hike was “sheer highway robbery.”
Under the rate adjustment scheme approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission, Meralco customers will pay P2.41/kwh more in their December bill, P1.21/kwh in February and 53 centavos per kWh in March.
This translates to an additional P830 in electricity bills of households consuming 200 kWh a month.
Households consuming 400 kWh a month will see an increase of P1,440 in their electricity bills.
A group of congressmen had asked the Supreme Court to stop the power rate increase.
On Friday, several House leaders said the Supreme Court is likely to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) based on overarching public interest.
Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption, Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol were hopeful a TRO will be issued.
In its petition, Bayan Muna asked the Court to strike down the provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which does not classify power generation and power supply as public utilities, a provision which allows power distribution firms such as Meralco to implement an increase.
“The end users who will be suffering from more expensive electric bills from December to March are those who in some way have been likewise affected by the disasters which recently hit the country. They are survivors of these disasters, or have relatives who are survivors, or have relatives who lost their lives. The effects of these disasters have undoubtedly drained or at least significantly weakened their finances,” Bayan Muna said in its petition.
“The petition has merit. The provision in the Epira law stating that power generation and supply are not public utilities are constitutionally infirm. A TRO may be issued because irreparable damage will be suffered by the consumers once they pay the new rate because the distributors will have a hard time returning the collected amount,” Tugna, the House Deputy Majority leader, said.
In seeking the increase, Meralco cited the month-long maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant, a situation compounded by the simultaneous unplanned outages of eight other power plants—Sual 1, Calaca 1, Masinloc 1, GN Power 1 and 2, Masinloc 1 and 2 and Ilijan plants.
“Considering however that the rate hike is highest in history and given the initial facts, the intervention of the court at this time may be appropriate until all issues are settled. It will serve the best interest of the public,” Tupas, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, said.
“I do hope that we will be able to get a TRO to unburden our people from the successive difficulties this Christmas season. It is no longer about legal merits but the morality and inequity of imposing an unconscionable rate increase amidst all hardships we are facing,” Batocabe, chairman of the House Special Committee on Bicol Recovery and Economic Development, told The Times.
But Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro and Romero Quimbo of Marikina City doubt if a TRO will bring relief to power consumers.
“I have apprehensions on TRO because the repercussions will be far-reaching. Meralco is under contract with these power-generating companies, and the power generating companies are also in contract with power plants. If a TRO is issued, Meralco won’t have to pay power-generating companies, and the power generating companies will do the same to the power plants.
What will happen to us? We won’t have electricity,” Umali, who chairs the House Energy panel, said.
”We will be in a better position if we exercise prudence,” he added.
Quimbo said that action must be directed against power suppliers, not Meralco.
“The Supreme Court has to be careful with what it does as a hastily issued TRO will result in loss of confidence by the investing and business sector. They cannot keep changing the rules in the middle of a ballgame,” he said.