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Palace opposes lifting of TRO on power rate hike

/ 01:16 PM February 05, 2014

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday said it is against the lifting of the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) power rate increase.

“Government believes that unjustifiable price hikes should not be passed on to the people. Therefore, the proposed petition for the lifting of the TRO is not consistent with the public interest,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said at a Palace press briefing.

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He said President Benigno Aquino III already pointed out that the Malampaya natural gas plant shutdown that caused fuel shortage in the country was a “foreseeable event for which Meralco and other industry players should have prepared.”

Coloma said that Aquino has agreed that Meralco and other concerned companies should return funds earned from their operations, if found guilty of manipulating the energy market.

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“The President also believes in enforcing the provision of the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) on possible disgorgements of profits if current investigations by the DOE (Department of Energy) and the DOJ (Department of Justice) will establish that there has been collusion among the industry players,” he said.

The statement was made after Meralco reiterated that its failure to collect the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour from consumers would result in rotating blackouts. The distribution company insisted that the TRO be lifted by the Supreme Court.

But the Secretary said the energy sector should always think of the interest of the consumers.

“The electric power industry is imbued with public interest. Public interest dictates that electric service be provided continuously and without unjustified interruption,” he said.

 

Coloma denied that the President is trying to influence the results of the investigations and that they only want to know what actually transpired.

“The DOE and the DOJ are pursuing their parallel investigations without any interference from the Office of the President or from any other office, because we want an objective and impartial determination of the facts, so that the proper conclusions may be reached and that these conclusions will serve the public interest,” he said.

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