A CONSUMER group on Tuesday lashed out at the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) that on Monday announced a new round of power rate hike for this month.
The power firm said it will collect an additional 23 centavos per kilowatt hour because of “oil price hikes and the weakening of the peso exchange rate.”
Matuwid na Singil sa Kuryente Consumer Alliance, Inc. (MSK) Executive Director Aya Jallorina said the decrease of the value of the peso, oil price hike and the series of quakes in Batangas do not justify a power rate hike.
“Distribution utilities like Meralco are regulated for public interest and as such, insulated from external business risks that normal businesses take, such as foreign exchange, fuel increases or damages from weather conditions,” Jallorina explained.
“Remember, the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) has regulated the DUs (distribution utilities). As part of the regulation, they are allowed to recover from normal business risks like the decrease of peso value or unexpected calamities. There are flaws in some DOE and ERC policies, that is why the DUs, like the Meralco, should not implement this kind of system that will make the Filipino people poor,” she added
The MSK stressed the need for a national policy on whether electric DUs should be unregulated in their profits.
“Providing efficient service to consumers is part of the condition to any franchise, like Meralco. So why should [the]consumers pay for Meralco’s performance, whether if it is orderly or not,” she said.
Science activist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, along with Bayan Muna and People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates picketed in front of the Meralco office at Kamuning-EDSA in Quezon City to protest the hike in electricity rates.
“The power rate hike already reflected in the bill for March and will continually increase until May is another cross to bear by Meralco’s consumers, especially as it comes at a time when we can expect higher electricity usage during the summer months,” Agham Secretary General and POWER Co-Convenor Finesa Cosico said.
Agham said that power consumers should not be made to pay for the scheduled shutdown of the Malampaya plant.
“Contrary ton Meralco’s claim that the Malampaya shutdown is a force majeure, the shutdown is indeed scheduled, thus the company had ample time to manage the possible effects of the shutdown to prevent circumstances that could lead to a power hike,” Cosico said.
She added that her group, along with two others, suspect “a connivance between Meralco and power generation companies to manipulate market conditions to justify a power rate hike.”
“We should not let the private corporations succeed in their attempt to manipulate electricity prices. We demand the ERC to immediately order Meralco to stop charging the increased rate to its consumers,” Cosico said.