Lawmakers laud SC TRO vs power rate hike

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Lawmakers on Monday lauded the Supreme Court’s issuance of a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s big-time power rate hike.

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Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the petitioners questioning the legality of the increase, welcomed the SC’s decision to stop the P4.15 power rate hike set to be felt by consumers in their December billings.

“This is one good Christmas gift from the SC to the affected Meralco consumers,” he said.

However, he said that it is just a partial victory for the people as they still have to stay vigilant and continue to fight for consumers’ rights.

“Yet this is just a partial victory. We still have to continue the fight for the consumers’ rights so that this unprecedented and unjust TRO-ed increases must be totally nullified as well as the culprit provisions of the EPIRA [Electric Power Industry Reform Act],” he said in a statement sent to The Times.

The SC on Monday issued a TRO to halt the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Meralco from implementing the power rate hike as a response to the two separate petitions filed by the lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc and by the group led by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore), Federation of Village Associations (Fova), and Federation of Las Pinas Homeowners Association (Folpha).

The rate hike is the highest increase in history that Meralco will impose to its consumers. The company cited the shutdown of Malampaya natural gas plant in November.

However, the lawmaker believed that there is collusion among independent power producers, whose power plants went on forced outages in October, resulting to skyrocketing power prices at the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM).

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, one of the petitioners, wished that the SC will “rule with finality on the substantive issues raised in our petition in order to curb the cartel-like practices in the power-generation industry, Meralco’s connivance leading to predatory rates, and the ERC’s failure to exercise its powers and functions in behalf of the public.” JHOANNA BALLARAN

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