PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd can spare millions of power consumers from the highest-ever power rate increase if he wants to because he has several options to address the surge in power rates, according to Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.
Trillanes said that if the President really had the welfare of the people in mind, he should not hesitate in using those options, which include subsidizing the additional cost of power producers by tapping the Malampaya fund.
Aquino has said he is powerless to stop the power rate increase because the Supreme Court has ruled that the Malampaya fund should be used solely for energy development.
“That is his (Aquino) interpretation,” Trillanes said a radio interview, adding the Court ruling did not say anything against using the fund for subsidy.
He noted that the President could use the Malampaya fund for subsidy and let the Supreme Court rule on its legality later if his move was questioned.
Trillanes said that instead of allowing power companies to pass on the additional charges to consumers who are already struggling with the high prices of basic commodities, the government should have taken the burden and use its available funding or savings to cushion the power rate hike.
“The power rate increase is a result of the failure of the government to address that issue earlier, so it is their fault and it is only right for the government to take the burden,” Trillanes said.
He said the public should apply political pressure on the Aquino administration to compel it to address the issue.
The rate increase, according to him, is equivalent to a wage cut of about P1,500 per month.
Trillanes said the statement of the President that he is powerless to stop the power increase shows that the government has no concern for the people.
“You are not elected to do that, you should give protection to the people,” he said.
“What is happening now is the decision made by the people in 2010,” he said, referring to the last presidential election. “Next time don’t be persuaded by advertisements or various gimmicks.”
The Senate committees on Energy and trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, are set to start on Wednesday an inquiry into the record power rate increase to determine and validate the reasons given to justify the hike and also know the status of the implementation of the Electric and Power Industry Reform Act.
Trillanes, who filed the resolution calling for an investigation, said the inquiry will also take up the government plan to ease the impact of the rate increase and reduce power rates in the future.
He said he expects the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission to find a way to lower the electricity rate, which is one of the highest not only in Southeast Asia but in the world.