There is no doubt that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has failed to protect the Filipino consumer from what is confirmed to be the highest power rate hike ever.
By their lack of action, the commission showed that the needs of the general public were subordinate to the needs of the power industry.
Metro Manila residents have reason to believe that ERC chief Zenaida Cruz Ducut was sleeping on her job. After all, they are the ones who will be most affected by the sky-high power rates being dunned on them by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).
As Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th said during the hearing of the Senate committee on power the other day, the ERC head acted as if she were completely powerless to prevent, or at least minimize, the rate hike.
Any manager of even a small corporation knows where she failed.
She should have known about the downtime scheduled by the power producers where Meralco buys the power it sells to consumers in the National Capital Region.
As head of the ERC, Cruz should have kept tabs of the supply of power. She could have required all the power producers to give the ERC their schedule of maintenance and subsequent shutdowns.
With their schedules, she could have then tweaked them so that there would be no overlapping. Some she could have instructed to conduct maintenance work a few weeks earlier, while others could have been told to do the same a few weeks later.
This way, the supply would have been assured, and there would have been no need for Meralco to purchase power from the spot market at much higher rates.
Meralco’s claims that prices would “normalize” after a few months are meaningless to the average Filipino family, who know that they must pay their bloated bill on time or else. That “or else” includes a willingness, nay eagerness, on the part of the sole company allowed to distribute electricity in the metropolis to cut power from households, which dare delay payments of their monthly bills.
The fat cats who sit on top of the totem pole of both the ERC and Meralco can well afford to pay their monthly electricity bills. The average Metro Manila household might not.
At the end of the year, Meralco is again expected to show huge profits. That net profit this year will be in the billions, just as it was last year. According to the company itself, they are on track to hit their P17-billion net income target this year.
That’s right. Billions, not mere millions.
They may argue that their profitability is the result of highly efficient operations.
Consumers, on the other hand, can counter that the profits are excessive, to the point of profiteering at the expense of the working class.
Would it be too much to ask that the company lower its profit target, and to settle for a few hundred millions rather than P17 billion?
We know their answer to that one. They operate in a free market environment, and nobody is forcing anyone to buy power from them. Clearly they do not understand the concept of a social conscience.
How unfortunate that with the blessings of the ERC, Metro Manila consumers will be hobbled with huge power bills for the next three months. Or more.