Recto urges gov’t to suspend power rate hike
Officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission face Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto Wednesday who asked them to suspend the scheduled P4.15-rate increase by Meralco at least until after an investigation into the alleged collusion among power producers has been completed. Video by Noy Morcoso
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday asked the government to suspend the scheduled P4.15-rate increase by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) at least until after an investigation into the alleged collusion among power producers has been completed.
Recto said it would be unfair for Meralco consumers to shoulder the rate increase when the tripartite committee composed of the Department of Energy, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation was still investigating the collusion allegations.
The result of the investigation was expected by the end of the month.
“Di ba hindi makatarungan naman na pinag aaralan pa ninyo kung may sabwatan o hindi? E kung lumabas na may sabwatan. Paano ngayon yan, nagbayad na yung consumers?” Recto asked during the hearing of the Senate committee on energy.
(Isn’t it unfair to impose it while you’re still studying if there was collusion or not. What if it turns out that there was collusion? What will happen now? The consumers had already paid.)
“Hindi ba dapat isantabi muna yung rate increase habang hindi pa natin alam kung may sabwatan o hindi… Hindi ba tama lang yun na i-suspend yung rate increase kasi maraming alegasyon ng sabwatan?” he further asked.
(Isn’t it proper to set aside the rate increase since we don’t know yet if there was collusion or not…? Isn’t it right to suspend the rate increase because of the many allegations of collusions?)
Responding to Recto’s queries, ERC chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut said: “I will ask time, your honor, to study whether the one that you’re suggesting is feasible.”
In her opening statement, Ducut said the ERC was taking some measures to find out if there was indeed a collusion as she promised to punish and recover the charges that were passed on to consumers.
“Katulad ninyo at ng milyun-milyong kababayan natin, kami po sa ERC ay lubha ring nababahala sa nangyaring pagtaas ng presyo ng kuryente noong nakaraang buwan na syang dahilan kung bakit kinailangang itaas ng Meralco ang kanyang singil para sa buwang ito,” she said.
(Just like you and the millions of our countrymen, we at the ERC are also worried about the power rate increase last month, the reason Meralco had to also raise its charges this month)
“Marami ang umalma at nagbato ng sisi sa aming ahensya. Bakit inapruban ng ERC ang pagtataas ng singil ng Meralco? Bakit hindi dumaan sa pagdinig? Marami din ang nag akusa na may nangyari ng sabwtan ang mga kumpanya ng kuryente, na may namamantala sa merkado.”
(Many people complained and criticized our agency. Why did the ERC approve the rate increase of Meralco? Why it did not go through a hearing? Many people also claimed that there had been collusion among power firms, that someone took advantage of the market.)
“May mga hakbang na ginagawa ang ERC sa pakikipagtulungan ng DOE upang malaman ang katotohanan sa likod ng mga paratang na sabwatan at pananamantala. Tulad po ninyo, hangad din po naming maparusahan ang mga mapapatunayang nagkasala at maibalik sa kanila ang labis nilang nasingil,” Ducut added.
(The ERC is doing some measures in coordination with the DOE to find out the truth behind these allegations. Just like all of you, we also wish to punish those who would be found guilty and refund the excess charges that they impose on the consumers.)
Before this, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV recommended tapping the Malampaya gas fund to pay the P9.7 billion that Meralco is trying to recover from its consumers this December, and in February and March next year.
After all, Trillanes said, it was the Department of Energy’s fault that it was not able to preempt the sudden rate increase.
Trillanes grilled Meralco when its president, Oscar Reyes, failed to immediately say if there would be a rollback of electricity rate by April or after the staggered increase ended in March.
“Ito ha, ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) rebyuhin nyo itong numbers, e pinalulusutan tayo rito. Maliwanag ito,” Trillanes said.
(To the ERC, review the numbers, we are clearly being conned here.)
But Reyes protested the senator’s remarks: “Your honor, with all due respect, we’d like to take exception to the comment na pinalulusutan ang honorable committee na ito (this honorable committee is being hoodwinked).”
“We wish to assure your honor, there’s no single centavo over recovery in the way will implement it. We will simply recover the absolute amount…” Reyes said.
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