Petilla hit for statement on power rate hike TRO
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers on Saturday slammed Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla for saying the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) should appeal the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on its power rate increase.
“We are aghast and dismayed at the statement made by Department of Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla urging Meralco to appeal the 60-day TRO issued by the Supreme Court,” ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio said in a statement.
Petilla on Friday was quoted as saying that while he respected the high court’s decision, he did not want the distribution utility to pay the generation costs by borrowing money, which would result in interest charges to be passed on to the consumers.
“Such line of reasoning reveals that Petilla himself considers the rate increase to be legitimate and above board, when it is in fact the subject of an ongoing investigation by the DOE,” Tinio said.
The congressman said the statement “preempted” the government’s investigation on the matter, as well as the Supreme Court’s, which has yet to rule on the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the rate hike.
“For millions of ordinary Filipino consumers already reeling from some of the highest power rates in the world, this is the last thing they need,” the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares warned that the DOE investigation on the alleged collusion of generation utilities may be “whitewashed.”
Sharing Tinio’s observation, he said, “The legal basis he (Petilla) is using for the automatic adjustment of the generation rate and system loss rate by distribution utilities from the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) is unconstitutional because it denies consumers the right to due process.”
On December 23, the SC handed down a TRO against Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate increase. It was heralded as an early Christmas gift and a timely decision, following the increase in the cost of other basic necessities and services.
The TRO was in response to petitions filed by various groups to stop the increase and to declare as unconstitutional provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.
Colmenares, among the petitioners of the case, said the Epira does not allow consumers to question rate hikes.
“We believe that our case against Meralco and the ERC would win in the Supreme Court…When that happens then it is the power cartel which would owe us for the increase and for the damages that we consumers endured,” he said.
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