• Whitewash feared in power rate hike probe

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    A lawmaker on Sunday raised fears that the investigation of the unprecedented power rate increase approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) could end up in a whitewash.

    Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said the Department of Energy (DOE) is under intense pressure from the power producers who are suspected to have conspired to manipulate electricity rates.

    Colmenares urged the ERC to immediately release the result of its investigation to allay suspicions that it is succumbing to pressure to clear the power producers.

    “We have received reports from insiders doing the collusion probe that they are finding it hard to release the report even if it was way past their December 30 deadline because of the pressure from the power cartel that the investigation should say that there is no collusion,” Colmenares said.

    Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla ordered the inquiry into the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour hike charged by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

    Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos told the House committee on energy in December there could have been collusion among power producers after nine power plants simultaneously shut down in November while the Malampaya natural gas plant was undergoing its annual maintenance check.

    The shutdowns caused power rates to soar to P33.22 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from P13.74 at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

    “It is clear from the outset of the Congress investigation that even just based on the initial investigation done by the DOE, there are indications of collusion or cartelization of the power industry,” Colmenares said.

    “It can only be changed when Malacañang, the DOE and the ERC would turn a blind eye to this and say that they can do nothing. Add to this the pressure from the power cartel that there would be blackouts when they are not paid then the result is a whitewash.”

    Colmenares said the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA) as well as the Palace, is “conditioning the minds of the people that there is no collusion among the power generators and that the P4.15 power rate increase should be shouldered by electricity consumers without complain.”

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd has said he cannot do anything to stop the rate increase.

    On December 23, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping Meralco from collecting the rate increase. The Court will hear oral arguments in the case on January 21.

    Meralco justified the rate increase, saying it was forced to buy expensive electricity from the WESM to make up for the 2,700-megawatt deficit in the Luzon grid.

    Last week, PIPPA President Luis Miguel Aboitiz denied any conspiracy among power generators and warned that blackouts loom if power rates are not increased.

    Colmenares urged the DOE to release the result of its investigation.

    “The longer the report takes, the more pressure or blackmail the power cartel will exert on the investigators to exonerate themselves,” he said.

    Malacañang also on Sunday gave assurances that the government is taking steps to ensure there will be no power outages during the summer months.

    In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DOE is coordinating with stakeholders to ensure a stable power supply.

    “We cannot allow widespread or frequent power outages because it will be bad for the economy,” Coloma said.

    “We can expect the Department of Energy to continue monitoring the situation,” he added.

    Coloma said the government is open to a study of the 12-year-old Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

    The government will consider all proposals that will protect consumers from unjust power rate hikes, he said.

    “After more than 12 years, it is time to study the provisions of the law and replace its weak points with provisions that will benefit the people,” he said.

    WITH REPORT FROM CATHERINE VALENTE

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    3 Comments

    1. THEY SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO JUSTIFY THE INCREASE IN PRICE, GIVEN THAT THE FUEL PRICE HAS NOT INCREASED BY ANY COMPARABLE AMOUNT. MAYBE THE INDUSTRY SHOULD BE NATIONALISED.

    2. apolonio reyes on

      DOE Sec. Pitullna, if he is not in collusion with the power cartel and the Oligarchs and Malacanang, should have done what the late DOE Sec. Angelo Reyes and Sec. Jose Almendras to prevent Meralco’s price hike was to order PSAM to run their Malaya plant. Now he wants ERC to investigate himself why he di not order so. NAKALOG ATA ANG UTAK NI SEC. PETULLA NG TYPHOON YOLANDA, DAPAT TINANGAP NI PNOY AND COURTESY RESIGNATION NI SEC. PETILLA EXCEPT IF PNOY APPROVED THE UNPRESIDENTED PRICE INCREASE WHICH PNOY SAID IS VERY REASONABLE, BY HIS AND OLIGARCH LIKE HIM IS PEANUTS. DI BA, SIR?

    3. Ricardo Harina on

      The EPIRA law should be amended that will mandate the National Government to build State of the Art Combined Cycle Power Plants in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that will reduce power rates and address environment concerns in the near future.

      With no assured substantial, stable and reduced power rates, how can you attract and encourage foreign and local investors in the Philippines under our present conditions.

      Our Nation can never and will never attain the economic progress that Filipinos and Non-Corrupt government officials are dreaming or hoping for if our Nation’s economy is controlled by few greedy and crooked power providers and businessmen in collusion with corrupt government officials and corrupt elected representatives of the people.

      Our government with the cooperation of our Congress should sit together and plan for building State of the Art Combined Cycle Power Plants for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that will provide substantial and stable power, reduce the power rates, address environment concerns, attract and encourage foreign and local investors that will provide economic impetus, job and business opportunities that will prevent Filipinos seeking jobs abroad and encourage those working abroad miserably return back because they will see a better Philippines in the near future and alleviate the sufferings of poor Filipinos where our Government will provide affordable and stable power to propel us to economic progress that Filipinos are still dreaming and hoping for..

      This is where we should put into better use the PDAF declared by the Supreme Court unconstitutional and putting up Elevated Water Pass along Pasig River that will mitigate flooding in Metro Manila during rainy season and can be use also as Express Way to lessen traffic problems in Metro Manila.

      Other smaller countries have been doing this that makes them more progressive and attain high economic status in the Forbes list.

      If we can do this, Filipinos working together under a better and clean government may realize the dream they are hoping for in the near future by starting these projects in 2014.