By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros today renewed her call to suspend any
new power rate hike in the country until the Senate Committee on
Energy finishes its investigation of rotational blackouts which
affected many households in May and June.
The senator’s statement comes as Meralco announces that it will impose
a new, higher power rate for the month of September supposedly due to
a higher generation charge, even as the inflation rate in the country
jumped to 4.9 percent in August amid the soaring prices of goods.
According to Hontiveros, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) should
disallow any such power rate hike at least until the Senate wraps up
its ongoing probe on what caused the recent rotational blackouts,
which reportedly led to at least 705,000 homes losing power and
economic losses of around P116 million.
“It is a matter of fairness and compassion. If this rate hike in
September is allowed, it would mean that power rates have increased
for six straight months now. Maawa naman tayo sa mga pamilyang hindi
na alam kung paano makaka-sabay sa walang tigil na pagtaas ng presyo
ng pagkain at ibang pangunahing bilihin,” Hontiveros said.
She added that due consideration should be given to consumers,
especially since neither government agencies like the ERC nor power
firms have yet provided the public with explanations or compensation
in relation to the power blackouts in previous months.
“Tama lang na hintayin muna ng mga kompanya gaya ng Meralco ang
resulta ng imbestigasyon ng Senado ukol sa sanhi ng malawakang
blackout nitong mga nakalipas na buwan. At kung mapatunayan na may mga
kompanya o indibidwal na nagkulang o may kasalanan, sila ang dapat
managot dito sa mga dagdag singilin, hindi ang mga konsumer,” the
Hontiveros has been active in efforts to lower the price of
electricity being paid by consumers during the pandemic. Due to her
calls, Meralco committed to implementing a “relaxed policy” for
disconnecting consumers who are unable to pay their bills, especially
during the enhanced community quarantine.
Recently, Hontiveros has also pushed for the recomputation of the
weighted average cost of capital (WACC), in order to bring down
monthly power costs. In response, the ERC has said that they are now
reviewing the WACC and affirmed that lower power rates are “feasible.”
“Malaking ginhawa ang maibibigay natin sa mga konsumer kung
mababawasan ang kanilang bayarin sa kuryente kada buwan. Kung
makakatipid ang konsumer sa kuryente, mas lalaki ang kanilang budget
para sa pagkain at gamot. Ngayong may pandemiya, bawat piso na
matitipid ng mga kababayan natin ay mahalaga,” Hontiveros concluded. (ai/mtvn)