House leaders: Power generation companies should explain Meralco rate hike too

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House leaders have backed the Supreme Court decision dragging seven power generation companies as defendants in the petition filed against the unprecedented Manila Electric Company (Meralco) power rate hike pending before the High Court.

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Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City and House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list made the stance in light of the High Court’s move to make the seven power generation outfits justify power distributor Meralco’s scheduled P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike—the highest in Philippine history.

The seven include: the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation, SEM-Calaca Power Corp., Masinloc Power Partners Corp., Therma Luzon Inc., San Miguel Energy Corp., South Premier Power Corp., and Therma Mobile, Inc.

“We are in a better situation because now they can give their side in the hearing [of the oral arguments],” Belmonte said in a text message.

Meralco’s has justified its power rate hike—which has been stayed by the Supreme Court thru a Temporary Restraining Order—by citing the Malampaya natural gas plant shutdown from November to December. Making the Malampaya shutdown worse is the unscheduled maintenance shutdown of certain power suppliers such as: Sual 1, Calaca 1, Masinloc 1, GN Power 1 and 2, Masinloc 1 and 2 and Ilijan plants.

Tugna, for his part, underscored that those liable for the unprecedented Meralco power rate hike cannot be held responsible if the power generation companies won’t be made as defendants.

“All interested parties, such as concerned government agencies, power generators, distributors and end consumers, should be heard and be made to explain to resolve the power rate increase,” Tugna argued in a separate text message.

In a related development, Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list urged the people of Albay province to protest the takeover of San Miguel Corporation of the embattled and debt-ridden Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco).

Zarate noted that it is for the government, especially Congress, to investigate the issue to unearth what led to Aleco’s financial woes. Aleco is indebted to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) by P1.3 billion.

“The Aquino administration should realize that electricity is a strategic public service affecting people and economy and should not be treated as a profit-making entity. It is imperative that the local government of Albay, particularly Governor Joey Salceda, to improve the services of Aleco and junk its planned privatization,” Zarate said in a separate statement.

But for Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, it is yet to be proven that San Miguel will mess up its takeover of Aleco.

San Miguel, Batocabe said, engaged with Aleco after a series of consultations on how to solve the financial predicament of the electric cooperative.

“There is no need to investigate. Unless they could come up with better solutions to the problems of the cooperative,” Batocabe said in a separate talk. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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