Palace opposes lifting of TRO on power rate hike

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014


MALACANANG on Wednesday rejected call for the lifting of the temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court on power rate hike.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated that the government is ready to protect the welfare of Filipinos.

"The proposed petition for the lifting of TRO is not consistent with the public interest," he said in a press briefing.

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

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has warned that its franchised areas could experience rotational brownouts due to continued suspension of its power rate increase.

Meralco has said that its debt to power-generating companies has already ballooned to P18 billion since the Supreme Court issued the TRO on its P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike.

In the event that Meralco would implement rotational brownouts for failure to collect yet additional charges from the consumers, asked if government takeover could be an option to protect the interest of the public, Coloma said, "Sa aking palagay hindi naman dapat humantong sa takutan; na sila ay mananakot at ang gobyerno ay mananakot din. Sa isang maayos na demokrasya, katwiran ang ginagamit at hindi pananakot."

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said Meralco's threat of possible black outs in Metro Manila and other areas are a form of black mail.

"The statement of Meralco is a clear [form of] black mail sa consumers dahil while they were pointing out na during summer, mahirap gamitin yung hydro [powerplants], inamin naman nila during interpellation na hinde sila gumagamit ng hydro plants. Coal and other fuel ang ginagamit ng kanilang mga planta," Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

Zarate's colleague, Representative Neri Colmenares, noted Meralco's statement during Tuesday's oral argument at the SC that the rated supply is 11,000-megawatts in the entire country while the peak demand is only around 8,500-megawatts.

"Meralco mismo ang umamin kahapon na the reason ng brown out is because of the TRO dahil hinde sila makasingil sa consumer, hindi sila makabayad sa genco (generation companies), ang genco hinde pwedeng mag-provide ng kuryente dahil hinde nabayaran so pera-pera pala ito," Colmeranes said.

Meralco earlier said rotational brownouts are possible if the unpaid fuel suppliers will stop delivering fuel to the generation companies. These power generators will then halt supplying power to Meralco, which will have to ration power due to insufficient supply.

Colmenares said that they will call for a government takeover of the power firm if Meralco continues to pursue to charge the consumers with the P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase. (SDR/With John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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