The people vs the conspiracy of the power cartel and government bureaucrat-capitalists

Protesting the P4.15/kwh increase in electricity rates
 Part I     Part II

 

Padre Faura, Manila

 

 January 21, 2014

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Rally at the Supreme Court
Click on photo to zoom
   
 Lawyers of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) at the Supreme Court
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The Case of BS Aquino et al

Militant groups and progressive lawmakers rally as the Supreme Court hears

arguments  on January 21, 2014 questioning the latest power rate hike


and the constitutionality of the EPIRA Law.
 

           
     
     
     

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PRESS STATEMENT
21 January 2013

Power rate hike contravenes Constitutional mandate to protect “common good”

The unconscionable rate hike in power rates proposed by distribution utility Meralco last year exposes gaps, lapses and violations of an already questionable law, human rights group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) will assert in court today.

NUPL lawyers will attack in the Supreme Court the P4.15 increase in generation charges incurred from Meralco’s suspicious power purchases in November and December 2013. Both Bayan Muna representatives who will argue on behalf of petitioners and consumers to void the present proposed and prevent future rate hikes are NUPL officers. Neri Javier Colmenares is NUPL President, while Carlos Isagani Zarate is former Vice President for Mindanao and now Adviser to the NUPL National Executive Board.

“This is the largest electricity rate increase ever approved in history. It will not only double the electricity bill of consumers of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, but will also further escalate inflation all over the country due to adverse spillover effect,” NUPL secretary-general Atty. Edre Olalia, who is part of the main petitioners’ legal team, asserted.

“Affordable electricity is a common good. Our Constitution mandates the State to intervene when the common good so demands. Bound by its anti-people policies,when will this government be able to bring us relief? Why can it not shield the many from the greed of the few?," he added.

“The approval of this power rate hike was attended by government negligence, a haphazard policy of liberalization and deregulation to favor big business, and a systemic failure to protect the public interest,” said Atty. Olalia. The lawyers contend that certain provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA, which expressly declares the industry open and competitive, allows Meralco to source electricity solely according to its corporate interests, and ties the hands of power "regulators" to approve electricity price increases even if unconscionable.

“Power firms should be considered a public utility because they supply a basic and essential service to the public. This is an industry which is "regulated", absurdly, piecemeal: while the distribution and transmission companies must secure franchises and agree to caps on still-lucrative rates of return, the generation companies can bill exorbitant fees and enjoy excessive and windfall profits to the prejudice of the public. For the State’s failure to assert otherwise, the power industry has spawned private monopolies and oligopolies,” he said.

The legal team which includes NUPL lawyers and is led by Bayan Muna general counsel Atty. Maria Cristina Yambot, also NUPL Rizal Chapter secretary-general, will make a case against Meralco for highly irregular and unprecedented acts in procuring electricity and the Energy Regulatory Board for grave abuse of discretion.

The rate increase came about not because there was a substantial increase in production cost nor was there a lack of supply, but only because some opportunistic generation companies exploited the highly suspect simultaneous unscheduled and scheduled shutdowns, and made staggeringly high bids in the spot market called WESM, the legal team analyzed.

The legal team also assailed why Meralco sources around 10%of its electricity from the spot market and refuses to contract closer to 100%, a fact which makes more prone to such market volatilities. These acts, and in particular the price manipulation, violate Meralco’s duty under its franchise which says it must supply electricity to its captive market in the “least cost manner”. (kc)#

Reference:

Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General
09175113373

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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SC asked to permanently strike down Meralco’s ‘manipulated rate hike’

The unprecedented hike was revealed as mostly due to Meralco’s contract with Thermo Mobile, which had bid 25 times higher than the usual rate, or the average recorded by WESM (P62 from P6 to 8 per kilowatt-hour). It was also disclosed that Meralco actually dictates and has full control over the pricing decisions of Thermo Mobile.

By MARYA SALAMAT
(http://bulatlat.com)

MANILA – Against what they described as an “unprecedented, manipulated power rate hike” by Meralco, hundreds of members of peoples’ organizations rallied in front of the Supreme Court this Tuesday, Jan. 21, as the high court began hearing arguments about the hike. Critics asked the Supreme Court to respond favourably to petitions seeking to permanently block Meralco’s pending rate hike, and expand its coverage to restrain price hikes also of power producers. The Supreme Court has issued a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the rate hike last Dec 23.

Meralco, the Philippines’ biggest electricity distributor servicing mega-Manila and nearby provinces, is seeking to hike power rates by P3.44 to P4.15 ($0.09) per kilowatt-hour, citing the high price of its contracted electricity supply. The rate hike has been already approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission, and Meralco has billed its customers based on part of the increased rate before the SC issued the TRO last month.
meralcoblackmail

Talking of Meralco’s rate hike, “This is the largest electricity rate increase ever approved in history,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary-general of National Union of Public Lawyers (NUPL). If implemented, it would double the electricity bill of consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Opponents such as the NUPL said the hike will also further push upward the rate of inflation all over the country. Olalia is part of the main petitioners’ legal team.

The petition submitted by the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers has three main arguments, ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said during the rally. In sum, these arguments are:

(1) The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) didn’t observe due process in agreeing to Meralco’s proposed hike. “It simply approved the proposal as requested in writing by Meralco; it didn’t conduct any public consultation as it was supposed to do,” Tinio told Bulatlat.com in Filipino;

(2) The proposed power rate hike should be scrapped altogether given that the ERC did not do its job. “In a situation that even power generation is privatized, the job of the ERC is important as it’s supposed to protect the people against huge power companies but in this case it just approved the unprecedented hike,” Tinio explained.

(3) The pending rate hike is “extraordinarily high,” and the basis cited for it rests on what the petitioners call as highly irregular and unprecedented acts in procuring electricity.

Rep. Tinio was part of the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers who petitioned the Supreme Court to restrain Meralco’s proposed rate hike, to which the high court issued a TRO last Dec. 23. With him in the Jan. 21 rally were fellow Makabayan lawmakers, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, and Anakpawis Party Rep. Fernando Hicap. Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate argued for the permanent scrapping of Meralco’s rate hike at the hearing in Supreme Court.

Strong case vs unprecedented, irregular hike

January 21 was also dubbed by various progressive peoples’ organizations as “a day of protest against Meralco’s abuses and the Aquino government’s inaction.”

Contrary to claims aired by Meralco that it did what it could to avert the power rate hike, the legal team who filed petitions against it, composed of lawyers from NUPL, asserted that “the rate increase came about not because there was a substantial increase in production cost nor was there a lack of supply, but only because some opportunistic generation companies exploited the highly suspect, simultaneous unscheduled and scheduled shutdowns, and made staggeringly high bids in the spot market called WESM [Wholesale Electricity Spot Market].”

Meralco had claimed the proposed rate hike was due to the increased cost of power they bought from producers. That increase of P62 ($1.37), a leap that is 25 times higher than WESM record of P6 to P8 ($0.13 to $0.18) per kilowatt-hour, is what the Meralco is now seeking to pass on to the consumers.

But in the protesters’ program in front of the Supreme Court, and during the oral arguments, petitioners and mass leaders including ACT Rep. Tinio said there are evidences Meralco itself was one of those who connived with the power producers to increase rates.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares accused Meralco of manipulating the price of electricity. He said it bought the highest-priced electricity at the spot market (WESM) during the scheduled shutdown of Malampaya plants. In this spot market, the highest price usually becomes the market price, Colmenares said, concluding that Meralco has thus caused the spike in prices.

The unprecedented hike was revealed as mostly due to Meralco’s contract with Thermo Mobile, which had bid 25 times higher than the usual rate, or the average recorded by WESM ($1.37 from ($0.13 to $0.18 per kilowatt-hour). It was also disclosed that Meralco actually dictates and has full control over the pricing decisions of Thermo Mobile.

Justice Antonio Carpio said the highest contract price with Thermo Mobile should have been only P8.65.

The multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) traces the problem of high electricity rates to the issue of automatic pass-on of supposed costs and deregulation of the generation sector.

No cap to prices, rates of profit

“Right now, there is no cap on the automatic pass-on of generation companies,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan. The group blames this automatic pass-on policy as the reason distributors (such as Meralco) can get the most expensive power.

“They can bid P62/kWh ($1.37) in the spot market but everyone knows that is not the actual or real cost of the electricity they produce. Yet they do it since the consumers will be the ones paying for the high costs,” Reyes said. He added that this is the problem with a deregulated and privatized power industry – everything is driven by profits.

Worse, even the government through the Energy Regulatory Commission is seen as colluding with Meralco. Saying the ERC committed grave abuse of discretion, petitioners blasted the ERC for “hastily and arbitrarily approving Meralco’s proposed hike.”

The questionable circumstances behind the prices in the spot market should have prompted the ERC to at least defer approval of Meralco’s proposed hike, the protesters said. Short of accusing the ERC of being in the payroll of power companies, Bayan asked the “mindboggling” question about how a small number of generators can dictate prices of electricity. Around 70 percent of Meralco’s planned rate hike was said to be due to the actions of just a few generating plants supplying less than 12 percent of Meralco’s requirements.

Protesters and petitioners urged the Supreme Court not just to declare as permanent the injunction against Meralco’s rate hike, but also to resolve the automatic pass-on policy; and to declare certain portions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA as unconstitutional, particularly the part that allows for the privatization of power generation.

“Power firms should be considered a public utility because they supply a basic and essential service to the public,” Olalia of NUPL said. The petitioners described as absurd the piecemeal “regulation” of the power industry, where the distribution and transmission companies are supposed to be regulated, but they can freely cite as basis for hiking rate prices the exorbitant fees and profits of power producers. The arrangement has “spawned private monopolies and oligopolies in the power industry,” and brought it immense profits but at public expense.

For junking EPIRA

For the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, the EPIRA has only allowed the collusion among capitalists in the power sector as they invent excuses to hike power rates and further boost their profits. “The Electric Power Industry Reform Act, in handing over the country’s power sector to big capitalists and allowing the latter to rake in huge profits through automatic recovery and other such provisions, should be junked,” said Roger Soluta, secretary general of KMU.

The labor center said the Aquino government will not likely prevent the power rate hike from happening even if it means immense suffering for Filipinos. That’s because it stands to gain from the implementation of the rate hike through higher tax collections with the Value-Added Tax, Soluta said.

If implemented, the big-time power rate hike would amount to an P830 reduction in workers’ monthly take-home pay on the average, according to KMU estimates. It warned that it could only mean further widening of the gap between the minimum wage and the Family Living Wage.

The minimum wage in Metro Manila, the highest in the country, is P466 ($10.31) while the Family Living Wage, already reached P1,056 ($23.35) last August 2013, said the independent think-tank Ibon Foundation. To get back some of the peoples’ money, Bayan called on the public to support protests against “the power mafia.” It also urged the consumers to ask Meralco to account for its collections last month when it billed consumers with the increased rate.

“We are revolted that capitalists in the power sector want to hike the most expensive power rate in all of Asia and one of the most expensive power rates in the world,” Soluta of KMU said at the protest rally. He condemned the hike as even more revolting especially since Meralco is the most profitable corporation in the country.

http://bulatlat.com


- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/01/21/sc-asked-to-permanently-strike-down-meralcos-manipulated-rate-hike/#sthash.xfvxsAEb.dpuf

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Streetwise
by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
 

Dirty power players

Before Christmas last year, the Manila Electric Company or Meralco, the Philippines' largest distributor of electrical power with a franchise for 22 cities and 89 municipalities, including the whole of the National Capital Region, tried to pull a fast one over its more than five million consumers. It announced an exorbitant hike in electricity rates -- a whopping P4.15/kwh increase to residential users to be collected on a staggered basis from December 2013 until March 2014 -- after being given the go signal from the government regulatory agency, the Energy Regulatory Commission or ERC.

The ERC did so with lightning speed on the basis of a mere letter from Meralco and sans any notice to consumers much less a public hearing. Malacanang, for its part, immediately pronounced the increase to be justified and lawful. In the same breath it averred that government was powerless to intervene in price setting as the power sector had already been denationalized and almost wholly deregulated by virtue of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, or EPIRA.

The announcement was met with public shock, dismay and then outrage. The Makabayan bloc of progressive party lists called for legislative inquiry into the facts and circumstances behind the increase. There were pronouncements from the leadership of the two houses of Congress of the need to review EPIRA, whether it had been properly implemented or worse, failed to deliver on its promises. In the House public hearing, Department of Energy (DOE) officials revealed that they were investigating possible collusion among generation companies (GenCos) in simultaneous and unplanned shutdown of their power plants.

The Makabayan bloc promptly filed a petition with the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Meralco increase because of the lack of due process in the ERC decision and because of signs of monopolistic price manipulation. A permanent injunction was prayed for by petitioners including the striking down as unconstitutional Sections 6 and 29 of EPIRA that categorized power generation and supply as not being public utilities and therefore not subject to government regulation. Meralco and the ERC used these provisions as the basis for the increase and its automatic pass-on to consumers.

After a seeming reprieve when the High Court issued a TRO, the public is now being warned by Meralco of blackouts should the electric company not be able to collect on the basis of the new, ERC-approved rates. This is echoed by inveterate champions of power sector deregulation and privatization. Topping it all is a numbskull proposal to give emergency powers to President Aquino for him to address and resolve the supposed impending power crisis. DOE and Malacanang prudently, or maybe just coyly, declares such a contingent measure as unnecessary at this time.

This column will attempt to explain in a two-part series, from an admittedly layman’s understanding, the issues at hand as well as their long-term implications. This attempt at sieving and seeing through a maze of highly technical and complex issues to lay bare the essentials is being done in defiance of the continuing efforts to deliberately obfuscate the way the power sector in this country is being run to favor the greed for profit of the biggest players in the power industry to the utter detriment of the millions of ordinary household electricity consumers.

The dirty power players include not only the power companies involved in generating, transmitting and distributing electricity but also the technocrats and policy makers, the big business interests and the perennially interventionist International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the foreign chambers of commerce that constituted the overpowering lobbyists for EPIRA.

Firstly, why was there a rush by the ERC to grant the increase to Meralco without taking into consideration the hefty burden on millions of low to middle-income households not to mention the undeniably negative impact on the economy. Why the failure to examine the suspicious circumstances of conveniently simultaneous or overlapping plant maintenance schedules and allegedly unexpected coincidental plant breakdowns. The ERC appeared oblivious to the DOE’s investigation of possible collusion among the GenCos to artificially constrict power supply.

According to the Makabayan petition, the ERC acted “in violation of its mandate to protect the public from anti-competitive practices and abuse of market behavior of industry players and the Constitution which prohibits monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade.”

The Malampaya regular maintenance shutdown (termed “turn-around”) is announced way in advance. Because Malampaya natural gas is a relatively cheaper source of energy to run the bigger power plants compared to more expensive, imported fuel such as diesel or crude oil, its temporary closure can and must be prepared for. But rather than be a signal for Meralco and the GenCos, under the appropriate guidance of the DOE, to prepare for this scheduled shutdown and those of several other power plants that would result to at least 2700 megawatt deficit in Meralco’s supply of electricity, it became an opportunity to unscrupulously escalate electricity prices.

Note that the breakdown of the Meralco increase points to a huge chunk of it going to electricity sourced from WESM. The P4.15/kWh added charge consists of P3.44 generation charge and the corresponding Value Added Tax (VAT). More than two-thirds of the said generation charge is the P2.38 cost of electricity supplied through the WESM.

Why did Meralco buy at very high rates from the WESM when it had enough time to contract its power requirements elsewhere at a much lower price? Meralco should have found a more cost-efficient solution to the anticipated deficit in its power requirements but it fell short of doing so. It still sourced about 10 per cent of its requirements from the WESM which is always costlier on an ordinary trading day, but more so when there is a tight supply due to various causes, not excluding an orchestrated shutdown of several plants by the Gen Cos.

Here is a case of patent abuse by Meralco of the already highly questionable and even unconstitutional automatic pass-on of costs to its consumers. This privileged business entity can lazily sit back and not bother about sourcing the cheapest power supply given foreseeable conditions of supply and demand because it can just pass on the added costs to its customers with the ERC’s imprimatur.

This historically and persistently monopolistic situation in the power distribution segment of the
electricity business has apparently spoiled Meralco’s owners and managers. They do not have to work their butts off seeking to bring down if not maintain electricity rates at a reasonably affordable level for their customers who are reeling from natural and man-made disasters and an economy that is not “trickling down” to the masses because they can simply pass on the increases.

Worse, Bayan Muna representatives have found proof that Meralco, working in tandem with an Aboitiz-owned power generation company, Therma Mobile, manipulated the market price of electricity at the WESM, particularly during November and December 2013.

Based on documents obtained from the WESM, Therma Mobile entered P62.00 bids 9 times in November and 59 times in December even if the contracted price between Meralco and Thermo Mobile is just P8.65/kWh. The effect was to jack up the price of electricity. However, Therma Mobile declared that it was Meralco which ordered it to do so.

Now Meralco stands accused as well of driving up electricity prices to unconscionable levels via price manipulation at the WESM. It used as cover the supposedly coincidental outages from unscheduled or off-schedule maintenance work on several other power plants at a time of the Malampaya turn-around that severely cut down the available supply of power during the contested period. The GenCos for their part are being held to account for colluding to artificially limit the power supply to take advantage of the Malampaya shutdown and lay the ground for much higher power generation costs.

How did we get to this situation wherein EPIRA, the law that was introduced supposedly to ensure a steady supply of electricity, low prices, and healthy competition among several industry players has resulted in exactly the opposite situation? The answer requires a long, hard look at EPIRA itself and the privatization and deregulation policy regime that has spawned it. #

Published in Business World
17-18 January 2014

 

     
     
     
     
     
           
     
   Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap  
     

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Rallies, blackouts as SC tackles Meralco rate hike

News Release
January 20, 2014

January 21 will be a day of protest for the opponents of the planned Meralco power rate increase. The protest actions will coincide with the Supreme Court oral arguments on the petitions seeking a stop to the increase. The High Court has issued a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order against the rate hike last December 23. Opponents of the rate hike from the Makabayan bloc in Congress are seeking a permanent stop to the increase.

“January 21 is our day of protest against Meralco’s abuses and the Aquino government’s inaction. It’s the day we say enough of abuses, enough of unbridled profits. We call on the people to gather in front of the Supreme Court to protest the power mafia that’s responsible for the rate hike,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan said that the High Court must resolve the issue of automatic pass-through and deregulation of the generation sector. “Right now there is no cap on the automatic pass-on of generation companies. We have reached a point where a small number of generators can dictate the prices of electricity. Around 70% of the planned 3.44/kWh increae was due to the actions of a few generating plants in the spot market that supplied only 11.5% of Meralco’s power requirements. It is mindboggling that 11.5% of the supply can make power rates shoot up through the roof,” Reyes said.

The group said that the automatic pass-on policy has allowed distributors to get the most expensive power, simply because the cost will eventually be passed on to consumers.
 

“This is the problem with a deregulated and privatized power industry. Everything is driven by profits. Power firms are given so much leeway to recover their cost. They can bid P62/kWh in the spot market but everyone knows that is not the actual or real cost of the electricity they produce. Yet they do it just the same since consumers will be the ones paying for the high cost and since the industry is deregulated,” Reyes added.

“The automatic pass-on policy should be scrapped. Power generators and distributors should not be allowed to get away with market abuse and profiteering.

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act should also be junked,” he added.
 

Meralco should account for collections
 

The umbrella group also demanded that Meralco account for all its collections made before the SC TRO was imposed. It said that a report should be made before the SC on how much Meralco has collected when it started imposing the staggered rate hike last December. Many Meralco customers had already paid their electric bills with a P2.00/kWh increase before the SC issued its December 23 TRO.
 

“We want to know the status of the collections. Where is the money? Is it earing interest? Shouldn’t there be a refund?” Reyes asked.
 

- See more at: http://www.bayan.ph/site/2014/01/no/#sthash.UVBu4y7y.dpuf

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Biguin ang sabwatang Meralco at Aquino! Labanan ang pagtaas ng presyo ng kuryente!

Pahayag ng Bayan sa protesta sa Enero 21

Noong nakaraang Disyembre, muntik na naman tayong naisahan ng Meralco.
Kasabwat ang Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), nagpataw ito ng 4.15/kWh dagdgag na singil sa kuryente, pinakamalaking pagtaas sa buong kasaysayan ng Pilipinas. Katumbas nito’y P688 DAGDAG sa electric bill ng mga ordinaryong pamilya na kumokonsumo ng humigit kumulang 200KwH bawat buwan.

Pero agad natin itong hinadlangan. Nagsampa ng kaso sa Korte Suprema ang Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan at Act Teachers party list at nakakuha ng temporary restraining order (TRO) na PANSAMANTALANG PUMIGIL sa maitim na balak ng Meralco at ERC.
Sabwatan para itaas ang presyo

Pinapalabas ng Meralco at ERC na dapat lang itaas ang singil sa kuryente dahil tumaas din ang generation charge ng mga plantang pinagkukunan nila ng kuryente. Sabay-sabay kasing nag-shutdown ang Malampaya natural gas facility at walong planta ng kuryente sa Luzon. Dahil dito’y kinulang daw ang suplay ng kuryente kayat sumirit ang presyo nito sa merkado (ang Wholesale Electricity Spot Market o WESM).

Pero kahina-hinala ang nangyari.

Una, hindi dapat nagsasabay-sabay ang shutdown ng napakaraming planta. May kasunduan sila sa gobyerno na patuloy ang kanilang operasyon habang kinukumpuni ang Malampaya. Dahil hindi ito tinupad, nagawa nilang palobohin ng dalawang ulit ang presyo sa spot market - mula P33/KwH hanggang P62/KwH.

Pangalawa, ang Meralco mismo ay nagsamantala sa sitwasyon. Ang suplay ng kuryenteng nabili nito sa Therma Mobile sa halagang P8.34/KwH ay ibinenta nitong muli sa spot market sa halagang P62/KwH.

Pangatlo, mistulang nagsabwatan at nakinabang sa pagtaas ng presyo ang mga malalaking negosyanteng may monopolyo sa industriya ng kuryente tulad ng mga Aboitiz at Pangilinan pero ni hindi ito inimbestigahan ng gobyerno at sa halip ay pinayagan agad ang pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente. Dahil din ba nakikinabang din ang gobyerno sa pagtaas ng singil dahil sa VAT sa kuryente?

Maling patakaran, inutil at korap na gobyerno

Sa halip na bantayan ang interes ng publiko, ang gobyerno ay nagpapagamit sa Meralco at iba pang monopolyo sa kuryente. Malaki kasi ang utang na loob ni Pangulong Aquino, maraming pulitiko at korap na opisyal sa mga negosyanteng ito. Bukod sa malalapit na kaibigan at kamag-anak, sila ang nagpopondo tuwing eleksyon at naglalagay ng suhol bawat transaksyon.

Lubos ang sabwatang ito sa ilalim ng Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Ito ang batas na nagbigay daan sa pribatisasyon ng buong industriya ng kuryente. Inalis din ng EPIRA ang limitasyon sa pagkamal nila ng tubo. Halos wala nang kontrol ang gobyerno sa industriya ng kuryente. Nagtayo pa sila ng spot market kuno na WESM kung saan libre ang mga pribadong generators na magpataasan ng presyo. Kaya’t sa halip na serbisyo publiko, puro tubo ang kanilang inaatupag. Kaya naman sa unang 10 taon ng impelmentasyon ng EPIRA, tumaas ng 112% ang singil sa kuryente ng Meralco!

Ang EPIRA ang salarin sa walang-tigil na pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente at sa pag-abandona ng gobyerno sa mga konsyumer. Ipinasa ito sa panahon ni Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sa dikta ng mga lokal na negosyante at mga imperyalista sa pangunguna ng International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) at Asian Development Bank. Ang patakarang ito ay ipinagpapatuloy sa ilalim ni Noynoy Aquino.

Ibasura ang EPIRA, singilin si Aquino!

Ang pagpigil sa pagtaas ng kuryente ay pansamantala lamang, 60 araw ayon sa Korte Suprema. Pagdedebatehan pa ito sa Enero 21. Kayat kailangan ang ating paglaban at pagkilos.


Sa susunod na mga linggo at buwan, paalingawngawin natin ang ating panawagan laban sa pagtaas ng presyo ng kuryente at laban sa sabwatan ng malalaking negosyo at gobyernong Aquino. Bumuhos tayo sa kalye upang ipadama ang ating pagkakaisa at paninindigan!

No to power rate hike!
Ibasura ang pribatisasyon at deregulasyon ng industriya ng kuryente
Buwagin ang WESM! Ibasura ang EPIRA!
Labanan ang sabwatang Meralco at Aquino!

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Enero 2014
 

- See more at: http://www.bayan.ph/site/2014/01/biguin-ang-sabwatang-meralco-at-aquino-labanan-ang-pagtaas-ng-presyo-ng-kuryente/#sthash.rQ45uSZp.dpuf

 

 

 ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
           

.News Release
January 16, 2014
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, 09177174014

BAYAN MUNA: MERALCO DICTATED POWER RATE HIKE
Says WESM documents show electricity price manipulated

Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate today accused the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) of dictating the power rate hike and manipulating the market price of electricity particularly during November and December 2013.

Based on documents obtained from the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), Therma Mobile (2TMO in the documents) entered P62.00 bids at the spot market 9 times in November and 59 times in December even if the contracted price between Meralco and Thermo Mobile is just P8.65/kWh to jack up the price of electricity. However, Therma Mobile declared that it was Meralco which ordered it to do so.

“AboitizPower President and CEO Erramon Aboitiz, who owns Therma Mobile, while admitting that Therma Mobile did made the very high bids, passed the buck to Meralco by saying that “Under TMO’s capacity-based contract, Meralco has full control of the use of the 100MW from TMO, including pricing and volume offers to the WESM. 100MW of its capacity was only utilized by Meralco starting November 12, 2013. The balance of 130MW will be available by mid 2014 once the connection line is available. TMO is a mere implementor of Meralco’s price and volume offers to the spot market or WESM,” said the senior deputy minority leader.

“We will raise before the Supreme Court, that it was Meralco with Therma Mobile that was manipulating the spot market price of electricity at P62 and then passed it on to consumers resulting to the P4.15 /kWh power rate hike. The P4.15 hike is automatically void if Meralco is found to have dictated the WESM price which increased energy rates not only in Metro Manila but also those of other provinces,” stressed Rep. Colmenares.

As for his part, Rep. Zarate said that “to prevent this from ever happening again the WESM should be abolished and power generators and distributors should be regulated. The pricing of power should also be regulated and subjected to a public hearing to ensure consumer participation, it should not be automatic,”

“This will prevent collusion and the cartelization of the power industry. This will also prevent the industry to be market or profit driven which is detrimental to consumers,” said the progressive solon.

“On the whole, EPIRA systematized and expanded the privatization and deregulation of the power sector. It completely transferred the control and administration of generation plants to private companies. It also privatized the transmission of power. Thus, private corporations, which have long controlled the distribution units (DUs), have become even more powerful since they now own the generation plants as well,” ended Rep.Zarate. ###

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News Release
January 12, 2014
References: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, 09177174014

BAYAN MUNA: EMERGENCY POWERS NOT NEEDED, JUST A RUSE BY POWER CARTEL
Says it will file a TRO to stop generation cost collection to stop threat of blackouts


Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate today expressed the group’s strong opposition to the proposed emergency powers for Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, supposedly to address the current “induced crisis” hitting the country’s power industry.

"Bayan Muna will oppose this deceptive move because it is baseless and has an evil agenda. It plays into the ploy of the power cartel to divert public attention from the real issue which is the unprecedented and illegal power rate hike imposed by Meralco and its cabal of suppliers,” Rep. Colmenares said.

“This concocted scheme is no different during the situation when then Pres. Fidel V. Ramos was granted emergency powers but the same were used instead to the allow the entry of favoured independent power producers (IPP) to construct power plants within 24 months. Ramos also approved onerous supply contracts that guaranteed the government would buy whatever power the IPPs produced, forcing consumers to pay for electricity they did not even use,” said the senior deputy minority leader.

"Truth is there is no emergency situation. Meralco and the IPPs colluded to create artificial power shortages thru simultaneous power plant shutdowns. The real problem is the greed for profits of these power generators and suppliers,” Rep. Colmenares added. “

“Corrupt public officials will once again have a field day with overpriced contracts and sweetheart deals if we give Malacanang emergency powers. The president has enough powers in his disposal to address the problems faced by our country. What are sorely lacking now under the Aquino administration are political will, competence and genuine empathy for our suffering people,” Rep. Colmenares said.

“That the president is also allergic to criticisms or suggestions makes even more perilous to give him these kinds of powers. What is needed now is for the president to certify urgent the bills to amend
or even repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA),” said Rep. Colmenares.

Meanwhile Rep. Zarate, said that it is highly suspicious that the proposal to give Pres. Aquino emergency powers was floated at time when Meralco and the power generators are threatening consumers with blackouts.
“We have to be watchful of the schemes and ploys of this power cartel as it appears that they will take advantage of the consumers by whatever means,” Rep. Zarate said.

“Lahat na ito ay pakana at pakulo ng power cartel to greedily rake in more profits. Kumbaga, pera-pera lang yan,” he said. For example, Meralco, was ranked the country’ number one company based on its income of P17 billion in 2013, “and it want to squeeze more profits from the hapless consumers in 2014.”
 

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"To stop these threats from Meralco and the power generators of supposed rotating brownouts and even black outs, we will also petition the High Court to include these GENCOs in the already issued temporary restraining order (TRO), so that they will be barred from collecting these unwarranted and unjust generation charges pending the resolution of the case,” ended Rep. Colmenares. ###

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News Release
December 27, 2013
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

BAYAN MUNA: ERC CHAIR ZENAIDA DUCUT AND OTHER ERC COMMISSIONERS SHOULD RESIGN

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares today called for the irrevocable resignation of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chair Zenaida Ducut and other members of the ERC for their hasty and unjust approval of the recent Meralco rate hike which has led to so much confusion and injury to the consumers.
 

The progressive solon also called on consumers to heed the Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order (TRO) and not pay their pending December bills until Meralco has clarified how much of their bill was restrained by the Court.
 

“The Supreme Court’s two month TRO only shows that paying the incredibly high generation charge could have been held in abeyance by the ERC for at least two months while it investigates the veracity of Meralco’s claimed increase. ERC’s hasty approval of the rate increase in only one working day shows its utter lack of concern for the public’s interest and a violation of its mandate under the law to protect consumers.” said Rep. Colmenares.
 

“Any rate increase in Metro Manila will affect the price of commodities being sold all over the country because most of the producers and manufacturers of these goods are based in Metro Manila. The ERC failed to consider the impact of the rate increase on the economy as a whole and the fact that it will jack up prices all over the country. They cannot be allowed to escape accountability for this and must not stay in office a day longer. They must tender their irrevocable resignation,” said the senior deputy minority leader.
 

“Consumers who have paid their December billing must now demand that Meralco refund them for their payments. Consumers who have not paid their December billing must wait for a letter from Meralco clarifying how much of their December bill need not be paid due to the TRO” said the progressive solon.
 

“Meralco should not implement any disconnection of service this December because consumers are just implementing the Supreme Court TRO in good faith,” ended Rep. Colmenares. ###

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News Release
December 27, 2013
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

BAYAN MUNA: ERC CHAIR ZENAIDA DUCUT AND OTHER ERC COMMISSIONERS SHOULD RESIGN

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares today called for the irrevocable resignation of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chair Zenaida Ducut and other members of the ERC for their hasty and unjust approval of the recent Meralco rate hike which has led to so much confusion and injury to the consumers.
 

The progressive solon also called on consumers to heed the Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order (TRO) and not pay their pending December bills until Meralco has clarified how much of their bill was restrained by the Court.
 

“The Supreme Court’s two month TRO only shows that paying the incredibly high generation charge could have been held in abeyance by the ERC for at least two months while it investigates the veracity of Meralco’s claimed increase. ERC’s hasty approval of the rate increase in only one working day shows its utter lack of concern for the public’s interest and a violation of its mandate under the law to protect consumers.” said Rep. Colmenares.
 

“Any rate increase in Metro Manila will affect the price of commodities being sold all over the country because most of the producers and manufacturers of these goods are based in Metro Manila. The ERC failed to consider the impact of the rate increase on the economy as a whole and the fact that it will jack up prices all over the country. They cannot be allowed to escape accountability for this and must not stay in office a day longer. They must tender their irrevocable resignation,” said the senior deputy minority leader.
 

“Consumers who have paid their December billing must now demand that Meralco refund them for their payments. Consumers who have not paid their December billing must wait for a letter from Meralco clarifying how much of their December bill need not be paid due to the TRO” said the progressive solon.
“Meralco should not implement any disconnection of service this December because consumers are just implementing the Supreme Court TRO in good faith,” ended Rep. Colmenares. ###

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News Release
January 9, 2014
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

Bayan Muna Rep.Neri Colmenares on recent SC order to include power generation companies on the power rate hike case:
 

Tama ang ginawa ng Supreme Court against the power generation companies dahil sila ang puno't dulo nito. We will immediately comply with the SC order and implead these power generators. We will also pray for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against these generation companies from exacting and collecting their incredibly high generation charge to stop them from threatening the public with interest payments for these charges. The Supreme court is also correct in ordering the Solicitor General to appear in the case because the government thru the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is one of the most guilty parties in this attempt to impose the largest power rate hike in history. ###

           
     
 
==          
     
     
           
▲  Paid Under Protest  ▼
           

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PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
21 January 2014

Reference:
Pats Ombion, Education and Research Officer, LFS
+(63) 927 336 2913

Aries Gupit, Deputy Secretary General, LFS
+(63) 935 331 3902

LFS: school protests, paint bombs, black-outs: assertions against power rate hike

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) joined different mass organizations and consumer groups today at the Day of Action Against Power Rate Hikes. The simultaneous protest actions were a response to the oral arguments set today at the Supreme Court on the implementation of the 4.15 per kilowatt hour hike sought by the Manila Electric Co. (MERALCO).

The LFS, along with other sectors stormed the Supreme Court for a protest action at 9AM. Members from different schools and universities converged in front the Bustillos Church and by 12 noon, marched to a nearby MERALCO branch and bombarded the company’s logo with paint bombs as a symbol of their anger and disgust. By 5PM, LFS went to different communities to get ready for the blackout protest set at 6PM today.

“This is to show that we are determined to stop the proposed increases. MERALCO has no right to blackmail us! We will not waive even if the inutile Aquino regime will not stand for us, we will assert against power rate hike.” Pats Ombion, LFS Education and Research Officer.

“It is infuriating that amidst the increasing poverty and crisis, the Aquino regime, MERALCO, and other power generating companies collide in the name of escalating profit” added Ombion.

The LFS pointed out that because of Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the government gave permission to these private companies to automatically pass charges to the consumers and increase the power rate as they please. The group said that since our power industry are privatized from generation to distribution and prices are deregulated, power firms gain more profit while the youth and the people suffer more.

“MERALCO and other power firms are downright greedy. It is more enraging that the Aquino regime is treating power as business to gain profit instead of a social service that the people need” Ombion added.

LFS demanded the immediate scrapping of the proposed power rate hike and EPIRA. The LFS emphasized that need to nationalize the power industry instead being private-owned.

“This reflects that there is basically wrong with our current socio-economic system. We call on to our fellow youth and the people not just to continue to fight against power rate hike but to push for a genuine social change through our collective action. We see the need to overthrow a regime that protects the interest of these private companies instead protecting the needs of the people.” Ombion concluded.

The LFS vowed that the mobilizations of the students and the people will continue unless there is an action taken to prevent the power rate hike. ###

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Press Release
January 16, 2013

“Blackout Protests” vs power rate hike set on January 21

Youth group Anakbayan called on various groups and networks to turn off their lights and hold blackout protests against power rate hikes on January 21, the day the Supreme Court (SC) is set to hold oral arguments on the rate adjustments.

The SC has earlier issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the planned power rate hike last month after activist lawmakers questioned the government’s “automatic” approval of the rate adjustment. The TRO will end on February.

According to Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan, the “Blackout Protest vs Power Rate Hikes” will feature rallies and assemblies in front of the SC in Manila and in front of Meralco offices and buildings. In the evening, they are calling on the people to turn off their lights and blackout.

“We are calling for a ‘blackout protest’ starting 7pm in the evening. Let us turn off our lights against Meralco’s bullying and abuse,” he said.

Crisosotomo also assailed Meralco’s warnings of massive blackouts and brownouts if the rate hike is stopped.

“It is enraging that these power giants have the gall to try to blackmail us and hold us hostage after profiting from unwarranted rates for so long. It seems they have yet to really feel the people’s anger. Time to give them a jolt,” said Crisostomo.

He said the “ridiculously high” power rates have brought huge profits for the power giant. According to research group IBON, profits of distribution giant Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) have been growing by 56.3% annually in the past six years.

IBON said that from its reported net income of Php2.6 billion in 2008, Meralco saw its profits balloon by more than six times to an all-time high of Php16.3 billion in 2012. For 2013, the power distributor expects its net income to further grow to more than Php17.5 billion – or almost seven times its profits in 2008.

“Kanila ang sarap, atin ang hirap. Not content with these record high profit rates, they have colluded with the government to manipulate prices to further squeeze consumers dry. This must be stopped,” he said.

Crisostomo said President Aquino’s puppetry to the monopolies and the liberalization of the power industry under EPIRA is to blame for the expensive power rates.

“His noynoying sickness is chronic, maybe he needs electric shock treatment. He along with those responsible for these hikes dapat isabit ng patiwarik sa kawad ng kuryente,” he said.


Reference: Vencer Crisostomo, 09328618369



 

     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Press Statement
21 Jan. 2014

Junk Meralco’s power rate hike!

Filipino workers call on the Supreme Court to permanently junk the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate hike that the Manila Electric Company and capitalists in the power sector want implemented.

There is a collusion among capitalists in the power sector in inventing an excuse to hike power rates and further boost their profits. The Electric Power Industry Reform Act, in handing over the country’s power sector to big capitalists and allowing the latter to rake in huge profits through automatic recovery and other such provisions, should be junked.

The Aquino government, because it stands to gain from the implementation of the rate hike in terms of higher tax collections through the Value-Added Tax, will not prevent the power rate hike even if the latter means immense suffering for Filipinos.

If implemented, the big-time power rate hike would amount to, on the average, an P830 reduction in workers’ monthly take-home pay. This could only mean an increase in the gap between the minimum wage and the Family Living Wage. The minimum wage in Metro Manila, the highest in the country, is a meager P466 while the FLW, according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, already reached P1,056 last August 2013.

We also call attention to the recent Social Weather Stations survey which shows that the number of people who are suffering from poverty and hunger is further increasing. A big-time power rate hike is most unwelcome for Filipino workers and the country’s poor.

We also unite with the country’s small entrepreneurs who are opposing the rate hike. They have been complaining of high power rates in the country for so long. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines stated that power costs amount to 20 to 30 per cent of production costs. This statement of fact further bolsters the claim that power costs, not wages, make it difficult for small entrepreneurs to do business in the country.

We are revolted that capitalists in the power sector want to hike the most expensive power rate in all of Asia and one of the most expensive power rates in the world. We are revolted especially because Meralco is the most profitable corporation in the country. Capitalists in the power sector are obviously making a killing out of the people’s suffering.

Reference: Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general, 0928-7215313
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Press Statement
27 Dec. 2013

SC permanent injunction vs. power rate hike now!

After issuing a Temporary Restraining Order, the Supreme Court should issue a permanent injunction against the P4.15 per kWh power rate hike imposed by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco). We support the petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus filed by Anakpawis Partylist as well as other petitions filed by other groups.

We are calling for a permanent injunction because we want this record-high power rate hike, as well as the damage it will cause the Filipino workers and people, stopped. At the same time, we don’t see the Aquino government doing anything to prevent this power rate hike, as it has already colluded, through the Energy Regulatory Commission, with big capitalists for the imposition of this hike.

The ERC committed grave abuse of discretion when it approved the power rate hike immediately, without public consultations, and through a mere letter. Such abuse shows once again that the Aquino government serves the interests of big capitalists, not those of the Filipino workers and people.

The collusion among Meralco, the power plants that supply power to Meralco, and the Aquino government is there for everyone to see. They are making up stories in order to try to justify the power rate hike. Their collusion shows that vital social services such as power should not be entrusted to big capitalists.

We are also calling for the junking of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira which has allowed big capitalists to raise power rates based on the flimsiest of excuses. The government should be running the power industry, as well as other vital industries, in behalf of the people.

We are calling on the Filipino workers and people to intensify our struggle against this power rate hike. It is only through our unity and action can we have the chance of winning a permanent injunction against this power rate hike and of actually seeing this rate hike junked completely.

Reference: Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, 0908-1636597

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Media Release
04 Jan. 2013

Gov’t not helpless, only unwilling to stop power rate hike – KMU
Merely unwilling, not helpless.

This was how national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno described the Aquino government today after deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte claimed that the government is limited by the law in responding to the rate hike being implemented by power firm Manila Electric Co.

KMU said the Aquino government can work for the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2011 or Epira so that it can wrest control over the power industry from the energy cartel composed of big capitalists.

“The Aquino government is feigning helplessness before the power rate hike in order to allow Meralco to rob consumers blind. It wants the public to accept the power rate hike, not to stop the latter,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said the Aquino government has also claimed in the past that it is incapable of stopping increases in school tuitions and prices of petroleum products.

“This government has always claimed that it is helpless whenever it is called upon to do something about big capitalists’ greed. When it comes to pressing down workers’ wages, legalizing contractual employment, and repressing strikes, it wants to show the world that it is very, very capable,” Labog said.

He also said that when Epira marked its 10th year in 2011, the law has already allowed power rates to double, the power monopoly to become stronger, and big foreign local and foreign investors in the power industry to enrich themselves.

He also said that Epira is to be blamed for the fact that the Philippines already has one of the highest electricity rates in Asia and the world.

“The Aquino government should junk Epira and not use it as an excuse to merely hold investigations and actually do nothing to curb power rate increases. Epira is anti-poor and anti-Filipino and should not be invoked like it is a legitimate law,” Labog said.

Labog said KMU will hold a protest against Meralco on January 7, birthday of former KMU chairperson Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran who led protests against the Purchased Power Adjustment or PPA, an old scheme by Meralco to increase its profits.

Reference: Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, 0908-1636597
 

 

 

     
     
     
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers:
Defending the people against the attack
of the power cartel and bureaucrat capitalists ▼
     
     
           
     
Analysing voluminous data on the power rates hike issue At the Supreme Court
     

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News Release
January 1, 2014
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

BAYAN MUNA URGES NON-MERALCO CONSUMERS FACING POWER RATE HIKES TO WORK FOR THE REPEAL OF EPIRA AND ALSO ASK THE SC FOR A TRO

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares called on consumers in other regions of the country facing power rate hikes in their province to also file for a TRO at the Supreme Court and question the constitutionality of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

The progressive solon made the call as power distributors are telling electricity consumers in other provinces just to bear the power rate hikes. In Pangasinan P1.98-P5.16, in Baguio P.26 and in Camarines Sur P3.89. In all these provinces the reason given for the power rate hike is the same with that of Meralco which is the suspicious simultaneous shutdown of power plants.

"I also ask progressive lawyers such as those of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to help the consumers in these provinces prepare their petition. It is about time that we put a stop to this practice of allowing greedy companies to earn obscene profits at the expense of the people," he said.

These supposed forced outages are now being investigated in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

“Last week before the TRO, the DOE said that power producers would defer the collection of the Meralco rate hike, if they are really sincere with this announcement we are now challenging them to do the same for non-Meralco consumers that they are servicing,” said the senior deputy minority leader.

“But as it is we are urging electricity consumers facing power rate hikes to file for a TRO at the SC to have immediate relief if it is granted because a TRO is legally stronger than a mere DOE-ERC announcement,” said the lawmaker.

“The announcement of the power cartel is their reaction to the anger and opposition of consumers. The cartel is also afraid because their modus operandi has been exposed. They want to douse cold water on the continuing exposition of their racket. What needs to be done is for the investigations to continue and for consumers to work to further expose the evils of the EPIRA in particular and the policy of neo-liberalization in general,” the lawmaker said.

“A TRO would be a step to ease the burden of consumers but more importantly it will be the prelude for the repeal of the EPIRA which has caused electric rates to sky rocket and placed us at the mercy of the power cartel,” ended Rep. Colmenares. ###

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News Release
January 2, 2014
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

BAYAN MUNA HITS POWER CARTEL FOR BLACKMAILING CONSUMERS
Says DOE should defend consumers from such threats

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares today accused power generators for blackmailing electricity consumers into accepting higher power rates supposedly to prevent blackouts.

The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA), an association of 28 companies engaged in power generation, president Luis Miguel Aboitiz said that “the biggest issue currently facing power generators is that if a lot of the peaking plants are not paid, then they might not have enough cash to pay for the fuel.

“And if fuel suppliers refuse to deliver fuel to them in the next few weeks, if they lack the cash to pay for it, then those plants would not be able to generate power until they have cash to pay for their fuel,” Aboitiz said.

Rep. Colmenares said that “this is clear blackmail and Aboitiz is trying to circumvent the Supreme Court temporary restraining order with this threat,”

“What is obvious is that the problem was caused by government's flawed policy of abandoning the power sector at the hands of private corporations through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). If only government had constructed more power plants or rehabilitated them like the Agus and Polangui power plants earlier and not wait for the plants to be privatized first, then power rates would be lower," said the senior deputy minority leader.

"It would simply be wrong for the Department of Energy (DOE) to force consumers to bear the cost of such corporate manipulations. It would be more logical for the government to repeal EPIRA and regulate the power industry. The Aquino administration should also study if it would be better to buy back the power plants so it could control power rate increases,” the progressive solon added.

“What it should definitely do though is to stop the privatization of the remaining hydroelectric power plants and power barges and have their maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading be handled by the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR). It should also construct geothermal power plants and develop other renewable sources of power so that we would not be at the stranglehold of the greedy power cartel,” ended Rep. Colmenares.###

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News Release
December 24, 2013
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, 09178350459

BAYAN MUNA URGES MERALCO TO IMMEDIATELY REFUND CONSUMERS
Says other consumers facing power rate hikes should work for the repeal of EPIRA and also ask SC for TRO

After the issuance of the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the P4.15 Meralco power rate hike, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares urged Meralco to immediately issue a statement explaining how much of the December billing is covered by the TRO.

"The consumers will only pay the remaining amount of the bill not covered by the TRO. Meralco should also not implement any notice of disconnection this December because many of the consumers are still confused as to the actual amount they should pay. The distribution company should also immediately refund consumers who already paid their electric bills with the generation charge increase" said the progressive solon who is one of the petitioners in the case.

"This is what happens if we continue with the ERC practice of provisional approval of applications for power rate increase. Had ERC not approved the Meralco letter requesting for the increase, this would not have happened," he added.

Rep. Colmenares also added that the SC decision bolstered the petitioners argument that the ERC provisional approval was hasty and in violation of due process. "The Supreme Court's 2 month TRO actually implies that the ERC could also have desisted from approving the rate increase for 2 months while the claimed generation charge was being investigated. The Meralco consumers are captive market anyway so there was no need to rush the approval,"

Rep. Colmenares also called on consumers in other regions of the country facing power rate hikes in their province to also file for a TRO at the SC and question the constitutionality of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

The progressive solon made the call as electricity consumers in other provinces are facing power rate hikes. In Pangasinan P1.98-P5.16, in Baguio P.26 and in Camarines Sur P3.89. In all these provinces the reason given for the power rate hike is the same with that of Meralco which is the suspicious simultaneous shutdown of power plants.

"I also ask progressive lawyers such as those of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers and the IBP to help the consumers in these provinces prepare their petition. It is about time that we put a stop to this practice of allowing greedy companies to earn obscene profits at the expense of the people," he said.

These supposed forced outages are now being investigated in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

“Yesterday morning before the TRO, the DOE said that power producers would defer the collection of the Meralco rate hike, if they are really sincere with this announcement we are now challenging them to do the same for non-Meralco consumers that they are servicing,” said the senior deputy minority leader.

“But as it is we are urging electricity consumers facing power rate hikes to file for a TRO at the SC to have immediate relief if it is granted because a TRO is legally stronger than a mere DOE-ERC announcement,” said the lawmaker.

“Yesterday’s announcement of the power cartel is their reaction to the anger and opposition of consumers. The cartel is also afraid because their modus operandi has been exposed. They want to douse cold water on the continuing exposition of their racket. What needs to be done is for the investigations to continue and for consumers to work to further expose the evils of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in particular and the policy of neo-liberalization in general,” the lawmaker said.

“A TRO would be a step to ease the burden of consumers but more importantly it will be the prelude for the repeal of the EPIRA which has caused electric rates to sky rocket and placed us at the mercy of the power cartel,” ended Rep. Colmenares. ###
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Photos by KMU of
Power Rates Hike march/rally, Jan. 20
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
BONUS TRACKS
Understanding the issue against power rates hike
     
     
     

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AN APPEAL FOR CONGRESS TO ACT ON AND RECTIFY ITS
APPROVAL THE FAILED EPIRA LAW

Privilege Speech delivered by
Gabriela Women's Party Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan
20 January 2014

Mr Speaker, Honorable colleagues, I rise today on a question of personal and collective privilege as we in Gabriela Women's Party bring forward this appeal to each and every representative to rectify one of the House's gravest errors: that of approving the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA, 13 years ago.

In 2001, the House of Representatives, in a special session approved the controversial EPIRA that promised, lower electricity rates for Filipino households and industry.

Proponents of the measure, also promised the restructuring of the power sector, ushering in increased private sector participation in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity that will pay off the debts incurred by the National Power Corporation, then pegged at $16.39B which supposedly accounted for more than one-third or 34.9% of government debt in 2009.

Thirteen years after distinguished colleagues, the result was exactly the opposite. Ano'ng nangyari?

EPIRA has driven the government into virtual inutility in the face of power rate hikes. The Energy Regulatory Commission has been stripped off its powers, failing to protect energy consumers from the profit-seeking big power industry players.

Ang mga pangakong kapakinabangan ng EPIRA para sa hikahos na mamamayan at para sa gubyernong lumalangoy sa utang ay nanatiling pangako lang.

Recent data from researches reveal that outstanding financial obligations of the Napocor composed of debts and independent power producer lease obligations from 2001 to December 2011 still stands at $15.85B or P696.5 B.

Mr. Speaker, after all these years, no more than a billion dollars, infact just a little over half a billion dollars have been shaved off from the debts of NAPOCOR!

We also need not illustrate how electricity rates have soared since the enactment of EPIRA.

The Philippines holds the record for having the highest power rates in the region. Generation charges are now pegged at P5.66/kwh. Had the Supreme Court failed to immediately respond to petitions filed against power rate increases including one filed by the Makabayan bloc, Meralco and the ERC would have gone on to implement a P4.15/kwh increase in power rates.

Data from Asean Center for Energy show that among the ten countries in Southeast Asia in 2007, the country ranks as having the third highest residential electricity tariffs, fifth highest for commercial, and fourth highest in terms of industrial electricity tariffs.

And what can this government do?

The Department of Energy has feigned helplessness in the face of these power rate increases. Secretary Jericho Petilla had been quoted saying “What can we do? Don't buy kung namamahalan kayo!”

Can we choose not to buy electricity or can we choose to live in darkeness?

The ERC on the other hand, by virtue of this onerous EPIRA law, has been rendered toothless, a virtual rubber stamp of proposed power rate hikes.

Section 43 F of EPIRA authorizes the ERC to “adopt alternative forms of internationally accepted rate setting methodology that will ensure reasonable price of electricity and non-disrimninatory rates”. The unbundling of rates under EPIRA has allowed the ERC to set varying methodologies in setting generation, transmission and distribution rates, including system loss.

In 2004, the ERC released the AGRA or the guidelines for the Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rates and Sytem Loss Rates by Distribution Utilities. This allows Distribution Utilities to calculate new generation rates on the 10th day of each month. This has resulted to an upward trend in generation rates, automatically passed on by Meralco to households and end-users.

While the ERC claims that these guidelines allows for transparency in the setting of generation charges, all the AGRA allows is for the ERC to “verify the recovery of generation costs by comparing actual revenues for the same period generated by the generation rates and the portion of the Systems Loss attributable to the Generation Costs”.

Thus Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, should the ERC fail, deliberately or otherwise, to verify these rates, these increases are automatically deemed final and confirmed. This makes it very easy for power industry players to jack up their rates, using manipulated market rates and standards. The market-based setting of rates and the reduced regulatory oversight renders the ERC powerless. Rates are pegged not just on a reasonable return on the assets but on projected-- not existing but projected, even imagined investments and operating expenses.

Ano kung gayon ang papel ng ERC pagdating sa pagtitiyak na hindi nasasamantala ng malalaking negosyante ang mga karaniwan at maliliit na konsyumer?

 

Batid ng ERC, ng gubyerno at maging ng mamamayan na sa kahit anupang panahon, kayang kayang hilahin paitaas ng mga pribadong negosyo ang singil sa kuryente ayon sa kanilang interes. Tiniyak din ng EPIRA ang deregulasyon at liberalisasyon ng industriya ng kuryente at kasama sa paghikayat sa patuloy na pagpasok ng mga mamumuhunan mula sa pribadong sektor ang pagtitiyak ng kanilang limpak limpak na kita, kahit pa gumapang na sa hirap at mangapa na sa dilim ang maraming mamamayan.
 

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Wala nga ba tayong magagawa?
 

What happens now when the Temporary Restraining Order expires? What happens if the Supreme Court turns a blind eye to the appeals of poor Filipino households and decides that allegations of collusion among power generators and distributors are lacking in evidence?

We in the legislative department are not totally helpless here, Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues.

We would not like to think that this Congress, composed of representatives of the people would refuse to heed the cries for relief in our respective districts and sectors and would refuse to act in the absence of a Presidential imprimatur to certify the legislation to review, amend or repeal the EPIRA as urgent.

President Aquino on the other hand, in refusing to take action against these power rate increases would be judged in our nation's history as the President who tolerated big business interests including that of his own Cojuangco bloodline who owns a significant stake in the power industry.

This is an appeal to our conscience. An appeal to look back at 13 years of EPIRA's failure and to immediately rectify what the House of Representatives has done wrong 13 years ago, to heed the calls for relief amid disaster, calamity and worsening hunger and poverty.

Instead, let us envision a nationalized power industry where the ownership and control of power generation and distribution and the power to chart the direction of the energy sector, from it's generation down to its transmission and distribution resides with a government that takes the interests of the people as its primary consideration.

Thank you very much and good evening.

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PRESS RELEASE
21 January 2014

MERALCO pushing power rate hike, energy crisis to justify expansion of dirty coal power

Environmental advocates from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) join various groups in a picket at the Supreme Court to support oral arguments led by the Makabayan Bloc in Congress against the power rate hike of Manila Electric Company or Meralco. The activists said Meralco, which also has its own power generation firm, is projecting the price increases and the energy crisis to justify the expansion of coal-fired power plant projects in the country.

“Meralco is claiming that the power rate hikes are caused by increased power generation costs by power producers and are thus out of their hands. Aggravating the power costs for consumers is their wicked way of justifying the expansion of cheap but dirty power projects such as coal-fired power plants, some of which their power generation arm Meralco PowerGen Inc. conveniently owns or plans to build,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Meralco Powergen owns a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Subic Bay through a joint venture with RP Energy, though it is currently stopped as a result of a Writ of Kalikasan filed by Kalikasan PNE alongside various other groups in 2012. It also plans to begin construction of a new 460-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon late this year.

“It is duplicitous to claim that they are powerless in controlling the generation costs incurred by power producers when they themselves are part of the energy monopoly that drives these costs. We have been expanding coal power since the privatization of the industry began, seeing as a result the 348-percent increase in installed generating capacity of coal from 1997 to 2012. Yet we have seen an 88.35 percent increase in power rates over the same time period,” Dulce noted.

Figures from the Department of Energy indicate that the installed power generation capacity from coal projects increased from 1,600 Mega-watts in 1997 to 5,568 Mw in 2012.

The group criticized the idea of granting emergency powers to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III over the supposed looming energy crisis which Meralco warned would result from the temporary restraining order (TRO) filed against the power rate hike, saying “it would only result in a presidential push for more coal-fired power plants.”

“We remember Pres. Aquino himself defending dirty coal especially during his state of the nation address last year. Granting Pres. Aquino emergency powers would only further encourage his false notion that more cheap coal power would help alleviate the price hikes. The real problem is the monopoly of the industry from power generation down to transmission as a result of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) wholesale of the energy industry to private interests,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan PNE joined the calls for a speedy court resolution nullifying the power rate hike and for the repeal of the EPIRA privatization policy, and also pushed for a moratorium on new and expanding coal-fired power plants in the country.###

 


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