Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), which is now being accused of manipulating the price of the power it got from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) during the Malampaya natural gas field shutdown in November, said the allegations against them is wrong.
A report came out on Friday stating that Meralco has indeed dictated prices at WESM through Therma Mobile’s suspicious biddings when the Malampaya gas complex had shut down. This was attributed to an opposition lawmaker who was interviewed by reporters on Thursday.
Highlighting documents from the WESM, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Aboitiz-owned Therma Mobile Inc. (TMO) sold 100 megawatts (MW) of power, which was supposed to be under contract with Meralco, to WESM for P62 per kilowatt hour (kwh) for 71 times in November and December.
As a respond, Meralco Public Information Officer Joe Zaldariaga told The Manila Times that the report was “absolutely false and untrue”.
The report even quoted Colmenares saying that “Meralco practically dictated the price” during the Malampaya shutdown.
Colmenare cited that Therma Mobile owner and chief executive officer Erramon Aboitiz admitted that the company made very high bids but passed the responsibility on to Meralco, who has full control of the use of the 100 MW power from Therma Mobile, including pricing and volume offers to the WESM. Therma Mobile, according to him, is a mere implementor of Meralco’s price and volume.
He even noted that the collusion did not only cause the power prices to increase sharply in the WESM but in the whole power market, affecting even prices of power outside Metro Manila.
“We are buyers in the market. Though I have not seen the alleged report mentioned, the number of times which was 71 referred to that TMO alleged offered in the market as cited in news reports is inaccurate,” Zaldariaga said in defence of Meralco.
“Even assuming 71 is correct, TMO would not have dictated the price in the market as this represents less than half of one percent of total trading hours,” he added.
Currently, Therma Mobile is under a short-term contract with Meralco that mandates them to supply 234-megawatts of capacity to the country’s largest power distributor at P8.65 kwh. So far, only 100 MW is ready for distribution with the balance to be available by the middle of this year.
From October to November last year, at least eight power plants simultaneously closed down, leaving the prices in the spot market in the hands of three power generators: Therma Mobile, Bauang Diesel Power Plant, and Limay Combined Cycle Plant.
Colmenares explained that during the scheduled Malampaya shutdown, Therma Mobile’s 100 MW were sold to WESM at P62 per kWh for 71 times, even though it was already technically owned by Meralco.
On Tuesday next week, there is a scheduled oral argument on Meralco’s power rate hike in the Supreme Court, which was put on a Temporary
Restraining Order last month. Meralco, together with other involved parties, are set to present their stand and the data that support it.
“We are fully prepared to belie and refute that baseless allegation in length when we present the facts in the proper venue,” Zaldariaga further said. MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR