• Last bid to block power rate hike

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    The reported plan by some of our lawmakers to ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) from implementing its announced power rate hike may well be the last hope of Metro Manila consumers from paying what they feel is an unacceptable increase.

    More than a week after the announced rate hike, the majority of consumers are still in a grumbling mood. Meralco has no one to blame but itself for this.

    First, the company announced that the coming hike would be between P2.50 to P3 per kilowatt hour. Then, the adjustment was adjusted, to P4 per kwh. Then, adding insult to incoming injury, Metro Manila consumers were told that the increase would actually be P4.15/kWh.

    What next? Will Meralco think of new surcharges to justify, say, a P5/kwh increase?

    Why stop there? Why not go all out and charge an additional P10/kwh?

    Yes, we are being sarcastic. Feeling angry and helpless at the same time tends to do that to us.

    We are not unaware that Meralco only resells the power that they buy from various sources, mainly private power plants. But we are just as aware that the Philippines, specifically Metro Manila, has one of the highest power rates in this part of the world.

    It is hoped that a Manila court does issue a TRO, otherwise consumers face what is likely to be the grimmest Christmas and New Year season in ages.

    Sometimes, consumers have little to go on but common sense. As such, they have to wonder why so many of the power plants that supply juice to Meralco would shut down at the same time.

    One of two shutting down for maintenance at the same time is perfectly acceptable, but six? This, plus the forced shut down of Malampaya—also for maintenance work—is the reason being given by Meralco to justify their power rate hike.

    Meralco insists that prices will stabilize sometime in the first quarter of 2014, most likely February.

    Suspicious minds can only conclude that the entire industry is trying to pull a fast one over consumers. All parties will make a quick killing, then revert to their previous ways of settling for regular profits.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    There have been various formulas offered to lower Metro Manila’s power rates. The Aquino administration would do well to form a superbody to review all proposals, which will then recommend which one can be the most realistic.

    The TRO, if issued, is only a stopgap measure. What the metropolis needs is a more permanent solution to the problem of high power rates.

    This is not to say that Metro Manila consumers deserve preferential treatment over the rest of the country. But like it or not, the National Capital Region is also the business center of the country. It is where foreign investors first head for when they are looking at placing their funds in the Philippines.

    Foreign investors would be shocked to find out that the country, in general, and Metro Manila, in particular, charges the most non-competitive power rates in the region.

    Imagine how long-suffering consumers of the metropolis feel.

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