ILIGAN CITY—Irate power consumers here on Tuesday took turns grilling officials of the Iligan Light and Power Co. (ILPC) as they demanded that the officials explain the nearly P3 increase per kilowatt hour in their electric bills.
During a hearing called by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) amid a petition by ILPC to jack up power rates to P9.5 per kilowatt-hour, members of the Lanao Power Consumers Federation (LPCF) said they could not understand why they have to pay more when the city hosts some of Mindanao’s hydropower facilities.
Dr. Melechie Ambalong, LPCF chair, said the group of consumers will fight the power rate increase, which the electricity firm wants to collect this month.
Ambalong said the planned rate increase this month will not be the last since the rates are expected to further increase to P10.45 per kWh by July when a new supplier, Mapalad Energy Generating Corp., starts supplying power to ILPC.
Ambalong said the increase is too steep because, prior to the ILPC proposal, consumers here and in other areas being served by the power utility only paid P6.53 per kWh.
ILPC said it needs to increase rates to pay for the additional charges that the revitalized Iligan City Diesel Power Plant (IDPP), now owned by Aboitiz Power Corp., and the Mapalad Generating Energy Corp. would collect from the power firm.
Keenan Erigbuagas, ILPC customer services supervisor, said the power utility firm has to buy more electricity from other providers because of the deficiency in supply from the National Power Corp. which has resulted in daily power outages.
Lawyer Leo Zaragosa said the proposed increase could never be justified because there was no need for ILPC to contract supply from other sources.
Zaragosa said the city hosts the Agus 5, 6 and 7 power plants, which supply up to 167 megawatts to the Mindanao grid.
Iligan’s peak power demand is only 37 MW.
Zaragosa said he suspects that ILPC’s reason for charging more would be for the benefit of only a few companies and not consumers.
ILPC is also operated by Alsons Power Corp., the same company that operates the IDPP and Mapalad.
“Why should the people suffer the burden of power rate hikes when there is available cheaper power from the National Power Corp. (Napocor)? Also, Iligan as the host city should be given preference in power allocation,” Zaragosa said.
Power consumers here found an unlikely ally in Uriel Borja, a member of ILPC’s board of directors.
Borja said he does not believe that the outages currently being experienced in Mindanao is the result of the declining water level in Lake Lanao, which fires up the Agus hydropower systems.
Borja said on several occasions, he had witnessed how Napocor released water from the lake, which would indicate there was no truth to the line that the water level there has been declining fast.
The Napocor said the reason the power outages are occurring is the lake’s declining water level.
A Napocor official, who requested anonymity, also supported suspicions that the outages are staged to force consumers into believing there was a need to acquire power from independent producers.
“The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) had limited Napocor’s production to only 50 percent of Mindanao’s needs and the other 50 percent shall be provided by private companies,” the official said. Tito Fiel, Inquirer Mindanao