Probe of Meralco ‘midnight’ deals pushed

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“Kung ganito magmahal si Meralco ay tuldukan na natin ‘yung ganitong klaseng relasyon (If this is how Meralco shows its love for us, let’s end this kind of relationship).”

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This was how Sanlakas Secretary Aaron Pedrosa portrayed Manila Electric Co. in an interview last August 10 regarding a campaign against power supply agreements (PSAs) between Meralco and seven power generating companies.

The campaign, dubbed as “NAGMAMAHAL, MERALCO,” seeks to contest so-called “sweetheart” deals with seven coal-fired power plants that are in fact sister companies of Meralco, Pedrosa claimed.

Last month, civil society organizations and consumers under the Power for People Coalition said the deals would lock consumers into paying higher electricity rates over the next two decades.

The coalition believes the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) gave undue advantage to Meralco, particularly when it approved agreements that were submitted after a 5 p.m. cutoff for filing such applications.

Pedrosa said they plan to mobilize consumers, homeowners and sectors within the 111 municipalities and cities under the Meralco the franchise area. The coalition will also turn to legal remedies.

Through a congressional inquiry, the group wants legislators to determine if the company violated provisions in its franchise.

In a text message, Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said the PSAs were legally filed in line with ERC rules and with the objective of ensuring adequate, efficient and reliable power supply at the least possible cost to the company’s over 6 million customers.

Zaldarriaga said Meralco had similar agreements with non-affiliates and claimed that the allegations against it were not only misleading but devoid of factual basis.

He said the company had already adequately explained the issue in a congressional hearing last month.

Last week, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the chamber won’t be looking into the supposed “midnight” given an ongoing investigation by the House of Representatives.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said the would monitor the House probe and only take up the inquiry if warranted.

Congress is coordinating with the ERC on the matter, he added.

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