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Fishers warn of power protest

Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) warned President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday that the looming increase in electricity rates this May is inviting the Filipino people to stage a nationwide electrifying protest and express their high voltage outrage if Malacañang and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will not recall the power rate hike.

“President Aquino is inviting a major political showdown with the people. Let us see how this insensitive presidency of Mr. Aquino will fare against the collective outrage of consumers across-the-nation,” said Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader urged the Filipino people through consumer groups, sectoral, and multi-sectoral organizations to flood the ERC, the Department of Energy (DoE), the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the Office of the President with protest and condemnation letters denouncing the latest hike in National Power Corp. (Napocor) power rates.

Hicap said one of the demands of the people aside from stopping the May scheduled increase in power rate is the indefinite suspension or urgent repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that the group said was a shotgun piece of legislation that allowed the full liberalization and deregulation of the power industry in the country.

“The people should pursue this summer offensive against the privatization of electric power industry, against power rate hike and for the urgent and unconditional repeal of EPIRA law. It is time send an earthshaking notice to a Noynoying presidency in Malacañang,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya also dared Aquino to issue an executive order calling for an indefinite suspension of the increase in Napocor power rates and certify the urgent congressional review and outright repeal of the 2001 EPIRA law.

The ERC on Wednesday allowed the State-run Napocor to increase its generation charges in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The regulatory body granted the petition for increases in generation charges by 69.04 centavos per kilowatt hour (kWh) in Luzon, 60.60 centavos per kWh in the Visayas, and 4.42 centavos per kWh in Mindanao.

At present, Napocor is charging consumers with P5.0160 per kWh in Luzon, P4.0740 per kWh in the Visayas, and P2.9321 per kWh in Mindanao.

Citing a study made by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Pamalakaya said for consumers, the most obvious impact of EPIRA is the unstoppable hike in monthly electricity bills.

From 2001 to 2010, the average residential rate of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has increased by 112.5 percent. The generation charge of Napocor for the Luzon grid has also risen by 86 percent during the same period.

Pamalakaya said the unbridled hikes were courtesy of EPIRA that allowed the continued collection of the notorious Power Purchase Adjustment (PPA).

Citing the same study of Bayan, the group asserted that the controversial PPA was a pre-EPIRA cost recovery mechanism so that Napocor can increase its rates and pay its financial obligations that stemmed from takeor-pay contracts with the IPPs.

Take-or-pay, according to the Bayan study, means that Napocor will pay an Independent Power Producer (IPP) for a fixed capacity regardless if such capacity was used or not. For consumers, it means that they pay for eletricity that they did not even use. (Marvyn N. Benaning)