Colmenares questions why consumers should pay higher power rates

By Ellson Quismorio

Bayan Muna chairman and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares is questioning the impending power rate hike from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), saying consumers shouldn’t suffer from the shortcomings of power plant owners.

Bayan Muna chairman and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares (RIO DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Bayan Muna chairman and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares (RIO DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“It is the owners of the generation companies (gencos) that should shoulder the additional cost of power that was caused by the plant shutdowns,” Colmenares said, referring to recent instances wherein several power plants in Luzon simultaneously went out of commission.

This led to the declaration of red alert status for several days in the Luzon grid due to low power reserves. For some areas, this meant rotational brownouts.

According to Colmenares, it was the gencos’ fault that they failed to fulfill their obligation of being able to deliver electricity to the public.

“Parang may kontrata tayo, you gencos failed to deliver. So kayo ang may breach of contract kaya bakit kami ang pagbabayarin? (It’s like we have a contract, you gencos failed to deliver. You are the ones who had breach the contract, so why must we pay?)” he said.

“Kung nasira ang boiler o anumang problema yan, kargo nila dapat. Wag nilang ikarga sa aming consumers. Ibig sabihin sila ang magbayad sa power shortage at resultang pagtaas ng presyo ng kuryente na sila din naman ang may kagagawan,” added the Senate aspirant.

(If the boiler or anything else bogged down, that’s their problem. Don’t pass it on to us consumers. Meaning they should pay for the power shortage and the resulting rate hike, which they caused themselves.

Colmenares, a former congressman, blamed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 for the allowing electricity prices to go up due to low supply.

“This ironically allows the gencos to earn higher profits by shutting down some plants to create an artificial supply shortage. These gencos should not escape liability by passing on to the public the higher electricity costs resulting from these shutdowns,” he said.

“Sila na nga may kasalanan kumita pa sila. Fair ba yun? (They screwed up and yet they raked in profits. Is that fair?)” asked the progressive leader.

In 2013, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Department of Energy (DOE) found basis to conclude that energy players colluded to jack up electricity prices in the spot market amid simultaneous power plant shutdowns.

“This time, the supposed shortage is a phantom shortage meant to scare the public to pay for high electricity rates and push for the immediate operation of dubious power plants like the Atimonan One. While other countries predict shortages by calculating lost energy supply resulting from ‘planned shutdowns’ and ‘unplanned forced shutdowns’, the DOE is probably the only government agency which includes not only planned and unplanned shutdowns but even ‘additional unplanned sudden shutdowns,'” Colmenares claimed.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said that on top of increased power rates to be passed on to consumers, there is also the unprecedented increase in missionary charges in the MIMAROPA region.

“Last month I already wrote and asked the DOE and the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the reasons for the P3.5-billion increase in missionary subsidies charged to all consumers in just one year, from 2016 to 2017,” he said.

“Ang nakakapagtaka kasi dito ay sa halip na lumiit ang missionary fees dahil dapat ay lumiliit na din ang areas na di pa nararating ng kuryente sa haba ng mga taon na ginagawa ito, bakit baliktad ang nangyayari at tumataas pa ang singil sa mga consumers na aabot sa P0.15 per kWh (kilowatt hour)?” asked Zarate.

(What makes we wonder about missionary fees is that instead of going down due to the shrinking of areas with no electricity, why did the reverse happen and consumers are being made to pay higher prices of up to P0.15 per kWh?)

“Dapat ay kagyat na masagot ito ng DOE at silipin na din ng COA para mapigilan (The DOE must answer this immediately and COA must look into it also),” he said.