Makabayan bloc rips SC ruling favoring Meralco price hike

Published July 5, 2022, 12:47 PM

by Seth Cabanban

Present and former lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc ripped apart the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision that favored the implementation of the Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) power price hikes.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and former Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate (photos from congress,gov.ph)

This, after a 6-5 vote of the SC upheld a 2013 Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) order allowing Meralco to enforce a staggered power rate hike, passing about P22.64 billion in generation costs to consumers.

The documents pertaining to the case were released on July 1, 2022, though the SC’s decision was promulgated last August 2021.

Under General Register No. 210245, lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc such as Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares, Carlos Zarate; Gabriela Women’s Party’s Luz Ilagan, Emmi De Jesus; ACT Teachers’ Antonio Tinio; and Kabataan’s Terry Ridon petitioned against the ERC and Meralco.

Sitting ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro issued a statement decrying the SC’s decision.

“Ginagawa ng gubyerno dapat ang trabaho nitong iangat ang buhay ng mga mamamayan at di magpataw pa ng mga mabibigat na pasanin, lalo na sa nga panahon ngayon ng pandemya at krisis sa ekonomiya. Nakakalimutan ba ng Korte Suprema at Kongreso na nananalasa pa rin ang Covid-19 at walang-patid ang fuel price hikes? Heto naman dadagdag ang desisyong sinasang-ayunan ang all-time power rate hike (The government should do its job to improve the lives of its people and not impose heavy burdens, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis,” she said on Tuesday, July 5.

“Ang kinakatakot natin, kung magtataas ang Meralco noon ng 61 percent sa mga electric bill, sa pagtanggal ng TRO [temporary restraining order] laban dito ay baka hindi lang ganito kalala ang sisingilin sa mamamayan. Ito ay dahil walong taong nakatengga ang maaaring ituring ng Meralco na ‘profit loss’ na dulot ng TRO sa babawiin sa consumers (We are afraid that if Meralco would have increased the electric bills by 61 percent back then, the removal of the TRO against this might mean that they would charge consumers even more. This is because after eight years of waiting due to the TRO, Meralco can consider this as ‘profit loss’ and charge consumers for it),” she explained.

Meanwhile, one of the original petitioners and former Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate said that the decision in favor of the price hike was made in poor timing, citing the rising cost of fuel and basic necessities.

“With the prices of basic commodities still skyrocketing due to continued big time oil price hikes and the weakening of the peso, this is another unwanted burden on our people. Financial burden like this once Meralco imposes this new power rate hike – on top of the already high electricity rates – may already break the Filipino consumers’ back,” Zarate said on July 5.

“We still maintain our position that the energy players then gamed the electricity stock market that resulted in the highest rate hike at additional P4.15 per kwh (kilowatt hour). Meralco, as a monopoly in its big area of operation, also abused its dominant position to the prejudiced of consumers. With the people’s clamor, we will continue to help place safeguards in the electricity market to prevent this kind of rapacious profit-seeking practices,” he concluded.

 
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