• Groups to seek TRO on record-setting Meralco hike this week


    Members of Bayan Muna party-list, as well as consumer and student groups, will seek a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) before the Supreme Court this week to halt the unprecedented P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase on the power rates of Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

    Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list made the disclosure on the sidelines on the House Energy panel hearing on the power issues as a result of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

    “There are two challenges for the Supreme Court here: to stop the increase which violated due process and declare the provision of the EPIRA law which allows automatic pass on charges to the consumers,” Colmenares, a lawyer, told reporters.

    The P4.15 per kilowatt hour Meralco rate increase—the highest in Philippine history—was traced to the month-long shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant in Palawan and the unusual simultaneous and unscheduled outages in other power plants.

    The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) allowed Meralco to implement the increase in staggered basis: P2.00 per kilowatt hour in December, P1.00 per kilowatt hour in February and P0.44 in March for a total of P3.44 per kilowatt hour increase in generation charges.

    The remainder P0.71 is for Value Added Tax.

    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.”

    “Why they are giving provisional increases while it takes a very long time before they grant refund to consumers for bad service? They should not grant conditional increases,” Colmenares added.

    Earlier, militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) staged a coordinated picketing of Meralco branches in Paranaque, Rizal and Cavite in protest of the power hike.

    Also on Monday, PM asked for an anti-competition inquiry on Meralco’s rate hike. The request was filed with the Office for Competition which is under the Justice department and was created by Executive Order 45 series of 2011.

    “It is futile to pursue an honest scrutiny of Meralco’s huge rate hike through the ERC which is totally captured by monopolists in the power industry. Instead we hope the Office from Competition can give a fair hearing to the complaint. If the government is serious about investigating Meralco’s hike, then he can do something through the Office for Competition which is under his authority, unlike the ERC,” PM said in a statement.

    At 10 a.m. today, PM members trooped to the Meralco branch in Tambo, Paranaque and Antipolo City in Rizal. Later at 3:00 pm, other PM members in Cavite picketed branches in the towns of Rosario and Dasmarinas.

    In the next few days, PM will continue the series of protests with pickets in Marilao, Bulacan and GMA, Cavite. LLANESCA T. PANTI


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