Electrifying protest awaits PH president on surging cost of electricity

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By Chitato Artidyo and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Manila, Philippines- A high voltage and totally electrifying protest awaits Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III if his administration fails to stop the new round of hikes in the prices of energy according to rabid critics.

“Watch out for that high voltage, electrifying protest against power rate hike. It is written in the horizon and Malacanang cannot stop this outrage unless President Benigno Simeon Aquino III scores a giant kill against the P 4.15/ kWh increase”, the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a press statement.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said President Aquino and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) violated public interest when it allowed the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and energy suppliers to increase power rate that would shoot up electricity bills by an average of P 400 to P 600 per month for those consuming 200kWh a month.

“There is a clear grand violation of public interest here. The President and his lieutenants at ERC sacrificed public interest to please their corporate clients in the energy industry. The deregulation, privatization and liberalization policy in the energy sector as carried out by Epira law further paved way for monopolistic adventure of greedy energy syndicates,” said France.

The Pamalakaya leader asked the Filipino public, including millions of customers of Meralco in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to escalate their protest and send a 7.2 magnitude message to Malacanang, the ERC, Meralco and energy suppliers that an electrifying protest await them in the main capital.

“The Filipino public should condemn and resist this bizarre joint project of Malacanang and the monopolies in the energy sector to hike the cost of energy. We should not allow ourselves to be left at the mercy of Aquino and his cherished clients in the energy sector,” added France.

Meralco said of the P4.15/kWh to be passed on to 5.2 million consumers, spikes at the WESM contributed P2.38; natural gas plants, P1.04; and other factors, P0.02, according to Meralco, as energy suppliers and industry observers argued that there was no collusion among power suppliers to raise the cost of electricity and that the simultaneous shutdown of power plants was merely coincidental and not planned as raised by consumer groups.

The Lopez-led First Gen Corp. and Team Energy said that their respective facilities’ maintenance shutdowns followed schedule, which was planned well in advance with regulators. The DMCI Holdings also downplayed the collusion angle, adding that they did their best to keep running while Malampaya was down, and in fact Calaca 1 and 2 were both running since Nov. 9.

The energy department maintained that there were unplanned outages in several plants: The 1,000-MW (megawatts) Sta. Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo power plants of First Gas Power Corp. (First Gen); the 1,200-MW Ilijan plant of Kepco Philippines Corp.; the 730-MW Pagbilao power plant of Team Energy Corp.; the 600-MW Masinloc power plant of AES Philippines; and the 600-MW Calaca power plant of DMCI Holdings.

Industry data affirmed that Sta. Rita Mod 30 (250 MW), Pagbilao 2 (375 MW), San Lorenzo Mod 50 (250 MW), Sual 1 (647 MW), Ilijan 1(600 MW) and 2 (600 MW) and Calaca 2 (300 MW) were on scheduled shutdown. GN Power 2 (300 MW) was on scheduled shutdown until Nov. 11 but it extended to Nov. 20. Calaca 1 (300 MW) was said to be on forced shutdown from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16, thus overlapping at some point with the Malampaya shutdown. ##

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