The P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike by Manila Electric Company (Meralco)—the highest in Philippine history—could increase the unemployment rate in the country, a lawmaker warned Thursday.
Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzula City, where 90 percent of the businesses are family owned small- and medium-enterprises in nature, sounded the alarm in light of the move of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to allow power distributor firm Meralco to raise its rates because of the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant and other unplanned outages of other power plants.
The Meralco rate hike, Gatchalian said, can push businesses to the extreme and prompt streamlining or worst, stoppage of operations.
“Small businesses and manufacturers are at risk of shutting down operations if government will not make any intervention to arrest the impending P4.15 power rate increase per kilowatt hour. This may result in massive unemployment if businesses may not be able to keep up with their ballooning electric bills,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The government, Gatchalian stressed, cannot afford to dilly-dally in aiding small and medium scale industries and securing the people’s jobs.
“The extraordinary power hike is unforgiving, harsh and heartless. I talked and consulted entrepreneurs and businesses about the impact of the power rate increase on their operations and they are very worried about their survival,” Gatchalian revealed.
Meralco is the country’s biggest distributor and covers at least 70 percent of the 72 billion kilowatt hour annually consumed by the entire population.
In the case of small and medium enterprises, electricity account 30 percent of their expenses, while labor is 20 percent of the whole operational outlay. LLANESCA T. PANTI