No to power rate hike until ERC gives clear, justifiable explanation–Hontiveros

Published August 11, 2021, 10:19 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday reiterated her call for authorities to suspend any power rate increase until the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is able to provide a clear and justifiable reason on the rising cost of electricity and investigation on the rotational blackouts is completed.

Hontiveros made the appeal after the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco announced that its August rate will increase again by P0.0965/kWh, which is equivalent to P19 per households that consume at least 200 kWh per month.

“The government should delay any plans to impose additional electricity fees until the ERC can provide us with a full explanation why transmission charges, that is passed on to consumers, continue to increase,” Hontiveros said.

The senator noted Meralco has been increasing electricity rates for the fifth straight month.

“Every peso is very important to every consumer especially at this time when most people could not even work due to another lockdown,” she said.

Meralco officials have defended the rate increases saying the higher transmission charges this month were due to higher ancillary services (AS) which jumped from P0.5992/kWh in July to P0.7323 this August.

Except for the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGC), Hontiveros recalled all other agencies and stakeholders have impressed upon the Senate there would be no upward movement in transmission charges once AS is made firm from non-firm.

“I think the ERC and Department of Energy (DOE) should answer the question: is this power rate hike permissible?” she asked.

“During the Senate investigation, these agencies left us with an assurance that there will be no increase in transmission charges even if non-firm contracts of NGCP’s ancillary services were converted to firm contracts. Is this just lip service?” she pointed out.

“If there is no specific or clear explanation about this, it’s best that we defer this rate hike for the benefit of our consumers,” the lawmaker stressed.

Likewise, Hontiveros reiterated her call for the ERC to suspend the rules on Automatic Generation Rate Adjustment (AGRA) and temporarily defer the rate increase for distribution and transmission charges that continue to weigh down power consumers.

“ It’s frustrating that our calls seem to be falling on deaf ears,” she lamented.

“I am expecting ERC to diligently exercise its regulatory functions to the fullest and ensure that consumer welfare is protected and power rate and service are justly regulated without further delays especially in bringing down the price of our electricity. If not, then they should voluntarily resign from their posts,” Hontiveros said.