Lawmakers want EPIRA law reviewed and amended

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WITH the looming power rate hike of P4.00 per kilowatt hour rate, several lawmakers on Wednesday raised the need to have the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) amended, if not repealed, since the law has not served its purpose in keeping power rates affordable.

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Senate deputy minority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said that EPIRA is the reason why the Philippines is among the countries in Southeast Asia with the highest power rate and it only worsen the power generation problem of the country.

“EPIRA is the reason why we have this kind of problem, the law only helped worsen our power generation,” Sotto said in an interview.

According to him the law has been in existence  for more than a decade now and so far it has done nothing to spare consumers from high power rates.

The EPIRA law was enacted by then President Gloria Arroyo in 2011 in a bid to lower power rates for consumers and lessen government burden by the privatization of state-owned power plants.

But based on the recent study conducted by various groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), AGHAM and Ibon Foundation they found that power rates instead of going down have doubled since EPIRA was implemented.

According to the study the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) rates have increased by more than 112 percent while NAPOCOR rates have jumped by more than 95 percent in by 2011.

They also found that more than half of the total generation capacity, the entire transmission system and a large part of distribution, are now controlled by a few large companies.

As for easing the government financial burden, the study also showed that NAPOCOR remains indebted despite paying billions of debts over the past 10 years.

Senator Francis Escudero, for his part is also pushing for the review of the EPIRA law in order to determine the specific provisions that needs tweaking or if the congress needs to repeal the law.

“I have been batting for the repeal, amendment, at least review of the EPIRA ever since it was enacted into law,” he said in a separate interview.

Both Sotto and Escudero expressed their support on move for the senate to investigate the issue particularly the role played by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB) on the issue.

Escudero is convinced that ERC could have done more to prevent such huge increase on power rates being an agency in charge of power concerns.

“Definitely the ERC has the authority to grant or reject any application for increase because there is no point for the agency to exists if it doesn’t have such powers,” Escudero pointed out.

He is also wondering why Meralco was allowed to impose an increase when it has not yet completed the refund to its consumer in connection with double-charged line loss rental collected from its customers from June 2006 to August 2012 totaling to P9.8 billion.

Encudero said the ERC should have factored in the refund and the rate deduction in order to somehow lower the increase being proposed by Meralco.

The Senator added that with the ERC giving Meralco the go signal, only the court could stop the electric company from imposing the increase. Jefferson Antiporda

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