• Lawmaker: Meralco must stop blackmailing

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    Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) should stop “blackmailing” and threatening consumers of massive blackouts in the coming months if the Supreme Court (SC) would not act soon on the temporary restraining order (TRO), lawmakers said on Friday.

    Bayan Muna Party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said that Meralco and other power generators are blackmailing electricity consumers into accepting higher power rates supposedly to prevent blackouts.

    “This is clear blackmail. Meralco and [Philippine Independent Power Producers Association Pres. Luis Miguel] Aboitiz are trying to circumvent the Supreme Court temporary restraining order with this threat,” Colmenares said.

    In its 230-page comment and counter-petition submitted to the SC, Meralco said that because of the TRO, generation companies might refuse to sell electricity to them.

    “Either way, the insufficient power supply will result in rotating blackout, particularly during the summer months, which historically drive up the demand for electricity,” Meralco wrote.

    Last week, Aboitiz warned that because the P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike was halted by the SC’s TRO last December 23, power plants might not have the cash to pay fuel suppliers to keep their facilities up and running.

    “Those plants would not be able to generate power until they have cash to pay for their fuel,” Aboitiz said.

    Colmenares urged the government, especially the Department of Energy, to guard the public against the power cartel’s “deceitful” acts.

    “Ang mga consumers na nga ang niloloko ng Meralco at power generators dahil sa sobrang taas na singil sa kuryente tapos gusto pa nilang manakot ngayon [It was the consumers who have been fooled by Meralco and power generators because of the soaring electricity rates, and yet they’re the ones threatening us now],” the lawmaker lamented.

    In 2013, Meralco became the number one company in terms of profit with P17 billion projected earnings.

    Meanwhile, Zarate said that the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) should already be repealed as it gave no benefit to the public since its passage in 2001.

    “It would be more logical for to repeal EPIRA now and return  the power industry to a full regulated regime,” Zarate said.

    The controversial policy apparently did not alleviate power rates in the country. In a study by Ibon Foundation and other militant organizations published in 2011, since the law was implemented, Meralco rates have increased by more than 112 percent. JHOANNA BALLARAN

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