• Government to pry into Meralco’s books


    MALACAÑANG on Thursday said the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is empowered to scrutinize books of accounts of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to determine if the company has violated the prohibition on excessive and unjust profit.

    “[ERC] has the power to look into the operation and dealings of companies in the energy industry. I think there’s a general authority for the ERC to look into the reasonability of charges. Of course, to determine that, there should be an accounting or analysis of relevant financial and operational data,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

    Coloma made the remark in the wake of reports that Meralco raked in around P4 billion in profits last year. Despite this, the power firm still announced power rate hikes supposedly to cover for its losses.

    Since electricity involves public interest, he said the ERC should fulfill its mandate to prevent Meralco or any player from exploiting consumers.

    “As a regulator of the power industry, [the ERC]has inherent power and authority to do what is needed to promote the public interest,” Coloma pointed out.

    The Palace official stressed that the ERC “at all times” should show its teeth and thoroughly scrutinize the movements of industry players.

    “There is no season or [specific]time for that. Every day, every hour the ERC should do its duty,” Coloma said.

    Meralco recently announced that it will raise rates by 89 centavos per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in April because of tight supply.

    Coloma said the government continues to monitor electricity price movements “to ensure that these are neither excessive nor exorbitant.”

    To add to the power supply this summer season when demand for electricity usually peaks, the government has put into operation the Malaya plant in Rizal province.

    Coloma said only Malaya 2 is operational because Malaya 1 is undergoing repair and maintenance work.

    Three Manila councilors also on Thursday led the filing of a resolution opposing the 89 centavos per kWh power hike this month.

    The councilors—Anton Capistrano, DJ Bagatsing and Edward Maceda—said “not even a single centavo should be increased and passed on by Meralco to its consumers this month” since the power distributor still has unpaid dues to its 5.3 million customers, including the overcharged generation charges and pass-on fees for the supply months of December and January.

    The group Power! also questioned the power rate hike.

    “The almost monthly petition of Meralco to the ERC to raise energy cost is a clear manifestation that it is hell-bent and desperate enough to push for possible additional charges against its consumers. If so, power consumers are now even more determined and eager to block all these attempt of Meralco to raise charges,” Raymond Palatino, Power! spokesman, said.

    Palatino added that the group will also convince other local governments in Metro Manila to file their own resolutions against the power rate adjustment.

    The group will hold a rally on April 21, one day before the Supreme Coust lifts the
    temporary restraining order it issued to stop Meralco from implementing its P4.15 per kWh rate increase.

    Meanwhile, Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, former Rep. Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna party-list, Renato Reyes, Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Elmer Labog and Francisco Mariazeta 3rd called on the ERC to reject Meralco’s petition for a rate increase.


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