Preliminary conference set for power rate hike debate

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014


OPPONENTS and defenders of the record power rate hike of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) will meet next week to agree on issues that will be tackled during the oral argument on January 21.

The preliminary conference was set on January 13 at the Justices’ Lounge of the Supreme Court, according to a three-page notice released on Tuesday.

Expected to attend are the three petitioners Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and other members of the Makabayan bloc, the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) and Federation of Village Associations and Anakpawis, et al., and respondents Meralco, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Department of Energy (DOE).

Meralco’s nearly five million customers are expected to pay an additional P4.15 per kilowatt-hour since the power distributor had to source more expensive electricity due to the shutdown of some power plants including the Malampaya natural gas facility off Palawan.

But the SC issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) last December 23, which stopped the country’s largest power distributor from implementing the staggered increase on electricity bills.

Petitioners said the ERC hastily approved the rate increase, sacrificing public consultation.

Makabayan also wanted the SC to strike down Sections 6 and 29 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) as unconstitutional for not considering power generation and supply as public utility operation, thus exempted from franchise requirement and regulation.

The Philippines has one of the highest power rates in Southeast Asia, influenced by the lack of government subsidies unlike in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). (Sunnex)

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