THANK God, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) and Meralco. Our January electricity bills will not be as extremely high as the ones we received in December.
Meralco is slashing the rate increase because the ERC finally decided to do its duty and had the Meralco rate increases reexamined.
But the increase will still hit the majority of Meralco’s customers hard. It will add to the inflation. And it will increase the sufferings of that portion of our population who are destitute (about 30 percent of all Filipino families) and the other 20 to 30 percent who appear in statistics as blessed with jobs and regular incomes but who are really very poor or barely surviving families.
And the businesses and industrial companies will still suffer from increased operational and production costs mainly because of the high electricity cost. And foreign direct investors will still be pushed away from our country—and go to Vietnam and Thailand—because our power costs are prohibitive!
We are inclined to agree with Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez who has said, “The recalculated rate hike validates…that the previous proposed power rate hike was gravely exorbitant and erroneous. However, it doesn’t mean that the new adjusted rate hike, albeit lower than the original proposed rate increase, is legitimate, rational and reasonable.”
PNoy vowed to act against power profiteers
On January 13, at the ceremonial laying of a time capsule at the San Gabriel Power Plant in Batangas, President Aquino said electric consumers should not be made to pay for the “wrong decisions” of power producers and distributors. He vigorously vowed to take action against those who have unjustifiably increased their selling price of power.
The ERC has voided the sharp increases imposed by Meralco in December 2013 and January this year because the probers saw that there was a “market failure” in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) that had unreasonably kicked rates up by more than half of what was the justified rate increase.
And the price of electricity at the supposed-to-be-but-not- really spot market shoot up for the power supply “was low because market participants did not offer their available capacity so there was market failure,” ERC executive director Saturnino Juan said.
There was an effort apparently to artificially jack up the price of electricity so that the “participants” could make windfall profits.
There have been reports that all of this mess is the product of collusion among “the participants.”
We even reported that, from a source at the WESM and Meralco, insiders have known that it was in fact Meralco that decided on the excessively high price that the generators should offer their available power at the spot market. This WESM, per a World Bank study, is the spot market that never was.
ERC must now be honest all the way
The ERC has finally shown its ability to serve the people and the nation instead of the big players in the power industry. It now must honestly go deeper and truthfully report to the public who were the masterminds and the foot soldiers in this profiteering operation.
And it must not stop at reducing the rate increase that Meralco is to charge its customers. It must penalize Meralco and all “the participants.”
And it must also go back to each occasion in the past when there were unprecedented rate increases. It must determine if in those times, as in the present case, Meralco and “the participants” also made “wrong” calculations.