Groups call out Rep. Dan Fernandez for ‘unproductive’ speech vs Meralco | Inquirer News

Groups call out Rep. Dan Fernandez for ‘unproductive’ speech vs Meralco

/ 08:22 PM November 14, 2023

Former Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte

Former Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte, co-convenor of CiizenWatch Philippines, is appealing to lawmakers to refrain from engaging in “unproductive and politically motivated exercises.” (File photo from his Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines — Two groups have called out Santa Rosa City Rep. Dan Fernandez over his criticism of power distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco), saying that the factual errors in his privilege speech are “unproductive” and have derailed discussions on how to lower power rates.

Fernandez’s speech — which was quickly debunked due to inaccuracies — might be a mere attempt to sow intrigue, CitizenWatch Philippines co-convenor Kit Belmonte, a former House representative, said in a statement on Monday.


“The allegations made against Meralco in a recent privilege speech by Congressman Dan Fernandez have quickly been debunked as false and appears to be an attempt by some parties to sow intrigue in the guise of addressing the high cost of electricity,” he said.


“CitizenWatch Philippines has consistently been calling for strategic solutions that will effectively address the increasing demand for reliable and affordable power which is critical to sustaining economic growth. We believe that the focus should be on accelerating the building of the country’s power generation capacity that balances a sustainable and affordable energy mix,” he added.

‘Politically motivated exercises’

Belmonte was referring to Fernandez’s privilege speech last Nov. 7 accusing Meralco of charging consumers more than it should because of a high weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 14.97 percent.

According to Fernandez, Meralco’s actual WACC — a percentage indicating how much of a return a company should be getting to ensure the viability of its investments — is just 9.23 percent.

But Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga maintained that the company had been giving service beyond the expectations of its customers.

He also shut down Fernandez’s assertion that Meralco controls 70 percent of Luzon’s electricity and the entire of Calabarzon by naming several electric cooperatives providing services to households in those areas.

“We would like to clarify that Meralco does not control 70 percent of Luzon’s electricity,” Zaldarriaga said.


In his statement on Monday, Belmonte said: “We appeal to our legislators not to waste time, energy, and the limited resources of government on unproductive and politically motivated exercises that will only distract instead of contributing real solutions to our power and energy problems.”

No government subsidy

Another group, Infrawatch PH, is also calling on lawmakers to help enlighten the public about the real reason why Meralco rates are still high.

In a separate statement, Infrawatch convenor Terry Ridon, a former party-list House representative, said: “The conversations about the country’s electricity rates have been going on for so long and yet many of our decision-makers fail to recognize the real reason behind the higher rates compared to other countries.”

“Unlike many of our neighbors, our rates are not subsidized by our government and therefore reflect the real cost of electricity,” he added.

According to Infrawatch, Meralco claims that 80 percent of its charges are merely pass-through charges — which means they are “remitted directly to power generation companies, transmission grid operator, and to government for taxes”.

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“It would be beneficial to even more consumers to look at other parts of the country that are often overlooked. We should work together instead in resolving the perennial problems in the energy sector,” Ridon said.


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