IT’s far from being an adequate response to what we see as criminal collusion among the lords who control our country’s power industry. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said yesterday that “the government is working with the concerned stakeholders to balance the power supply and demand to address possible power outages.”
He claims that his Energy department is “trying to mediate” between Meralco and the power generating corporations in the hope of finding a “practical solution.”
Meralco, the country’s biggest electricity distributor and also the mother or sister corporation of generating companies, has issued warnings that because the Supreme Court has restrained it from implementing the astronomical rate increases it has imposed on consumers, there will be power outages.
The Energy department head said a mouthful of useless words. “While the SC TRO (temporary restraining order against the rate increase) is pending and to ensure the continuity of service, the DOE has been in the process of mediating between Meralco and the power generators on a practicable solution as to how fuel costs will be shouldered between the parties and to reconcile their accounts depending on the final outcome of the case.”
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., probably to make the Aquino government look less impotent against the power industry lords, also uttered mouthfuls of useless words to Palace reporters yesterday. All he did was reiterate that the government has the duty to protect the welfare of the citizens and that Meralco and all the companies in power industry also have duty to do what is necessary to ensure that the people get proper service. He said the Aquino government will coordinate with the power companies to attain that goal.
Betrayal of the people
What is clear is that the Aquino Administration has betrayed the citizenry and compromised the future of our country, the welfare of the people and the Philippine Republic by (1) declaring that it is helpless against, in effect, the rapacious lust for profits of the power industry lords and (2) by cooperating with these lords to raise the price of power.
Thanks to the Supreme Court the unconscionable power price increase has been halted.
The people owe the Supreme Court thanks and commendation. Last Thursday, the High Court required the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to explain how they could possibly arrive at a decision to approve the unprecedented P4.15 per kilowatt-hour power rate increase imposed by Meralco, an increase that further makes electricity in our country among the world’s most expensive and Asia’s most prohibitive.
The patriotic SC also ordered the petitioners against the rate hike to add independent power producers and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp., operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) which is not a spot market at all, to their list of respondents.
The High Court decision states: “Public records show that SEM-Calaca Power Corporation, Masinloc Power Partners Corp, Therma Luzon Inc., San Miguel Energy Corp., South Premiere Power Corp., and Therma Mobile Inc., have existing power supply agreements with Meralco (Manila Electric Company) and supplied Meralco with power during November 2013 when the generation costs increased.” These agreements, among other issues, form the basis for the belief that there is collusion.
The Court also required the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to comment on the case by January 17 after it refused to make its voice heard. The OSG excused itself by saying that it is the Energy Department and the ERC that have the duty to defend their action of approving the Meralco rate hike request. But the OSG is the government body the Constitution vests with the function of defending the government’s actions and decisions. Does the OSG’s recusal mean that it does not agree with the DOE and the ERC? If so, then the Aquino administration’s betrayal of the people’s welfare becomes more flagrant! For it shows that contrary to Mr. Aquino’s protestations of helplessness versus Meralco and the other lords, he could have marshalled the power of OSG against the electricity lords.
Miracles can happen
It is not too late for the President to do this. In all countries with a system of courts like ours, the Solicitor General is viewed by the Supreme Court justices as their peer—the extra SC justice waiting to be put to good use.
As several articles by our columnist Rigoberto Tiglao have revealed, however, the Aquino government is virtually a co-conspirator with Meralco and the other lords of power. Therefore, it is not likely that the President will ask the Solicitor General to act for the Republic’s and the people’s welfare.
But we can pray for a miracle, can’t we?