Malacañang said it is the “legal right” of consumer and militant groups to go to the court to stop the P4.15 rate hike implemented recently by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said power consumers have the right to seek redress in court.
“To take the case to court is their legal right and strategy. They are free to do that. As for the Executive, the President has given instructions to Secretary [Jericho] Petilla to map out ways on how to cushion the impact of the increase,” Valte told Radyo ng Bayan.
Sen. Francis Escudero earlier said he and other groups are considering filing a petition to stop the power rate hike, will be spread over three tranches, the first to be reflected in consumers’ bills this month.
Escudero said the unprecedented increase was an abuse of the automatic increase provision the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC) granted to Meralco.
“Meralco cannot justify its increase with the generation cost rationale.
If they are too quick to impose a price hike, they must also be this quick or quicker to refund the consumers and give us our rebates in the shortest period of time. It should be quid pro quo,” he said.
Meralco attributed the rate hike to the simultaneous shutdown of several power plants.
The Department of Energy is investigating if there was collusion among power producers because nine plants shut down simultaneously while the Malampaya plant was undergoing maintenance repair.
DOE Undersecretary Raul Aguilos raised the possibility of a collusion when he appeared before the House Committee on Energy.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the effect of the plants’ shutdown was minimal.
Petilla’s remark drew an angry retort from Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“The statement of Secretary Petilla is tantamount to saying that it is all right to have a cartel in the power sector and we just have to bear the burden when they collude to increase power rates. Instead of defending the interest of consumers the DOE is more active in protecting the profits of power producers and Meralco, a behemoth in the power industry and one of the country’s top corporations,” Zarate said.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio sees collusion in the fact that the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market sells electricity at a bid cap of P62 per kilowatt-hour even during periods when demand is low, such as Sundays and holidays.