Power rate hike questioned before SC

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

LAWMAKERS belonging to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to nullify the power rate hike in Metro Manila and nearby provinces for lack of due process.

In a petition, the bloc said the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour increase was approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) without hearing the side of nearly five million customers of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributor.

Meralco defended the increase, saying it was forced to buy expensive power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) due to the shutdown of some power plants including Malampaya natural gas facility off Palawan.

The company said about 2,700 megawatts of power from Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, and Ilijan plants were lost due to the shutdown. Luzon needs at least 6,000 MW to meet its peak load demand.

“The ERC, however, blatantly reneged on its duty to protect public from anti-competitive practices and market abuse when it approved the P4.15 increase despite clear indications of irregularity in the simultaneous planned and unplanned shutdowns, the hefty spike of electricity prices in WESM and the unprecedented increase that Meralco is asking for,” the petition read.

The bloc also found the approval of rate hike application as violative of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). The group said the ERC should have not hastily approved the proposed rate increase barely three days from its submission because public interest is involved.

“By approving the rate increase post haste and without exercising its required regulatory role the ERC has clearly committed grave abuse of discretion,” the petition read.

Meanwhile, the Makabayan urged the High Court to declare Sections 6 and 29 of the EPIRA as unconstitutional.

Section 6 provides that power generation and supply are not public utility operations while Section 29 guarantees that their charges to the public are beyond ERC regulation.

“Congress in passing the said provisions had grievously erred in considering power generation and supply as not a public utility operation, thus not subject franchise requirement and regulation,” Makabayan said.

The bloc is composed of Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate (Bayan), Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela), Antonio Tinio (Alliance of Concerned Teachers) and Terry Ridon (Kabataan). (Sunnex)

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