Solons demand power rate probe

Two members of the House of Representatives on Friday sought congressional probe into what they described as “humongous” power rate hike imposed by the Meralco.

Reps. Carlos Zarate and Neri Colmenares, both of Bayan Muna, filed House Resolution 588 even as they chided Malacanang for its “unabashed defense” of the planned huge power rate increase of the Meralco that ranges from P3 to P3.50 per kilowatt-hour.

Sonny Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, earlier said that the power rate hike to be carried out by Meralco this month was ‘reasonable.’

“What kind of government is this that it would rather defend the profits of big companies rather than work for the welfare of the people?” Zarate asked.

“This planned power rate increase is obviously artificial and contrived, considering that the supposed ‘maintenance shutdown’ of the Malampaya natural gas plant between Nov. 11 to Dec. 10 was scheduled long ago, other cheaper sources could have been used to compensate without imposing additional burden to our people,” he added.

Zarate said that the congressional probe is intended to also look into the supposed energy plan being carried out by the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“If it is so, then this power rate increase is also clearly planned,” Zarate said. “An investigation is definitely in order, considering that we have had enough calamities for the year. Meralco should not be callous by adding more to our woes,” he added.

Zarate likened the present situation with that of last year’s threat of rotating brownouts by power distribution companies allegedly due to simultaneous maintenance of power plants.

“We should be wary of this supposed scheduled maintenance of power plants as they are deliberately aimed at manipulating the prices of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM),” he added.

Colmenares, for his part, called on the regulators, particularly the ERC “to keep their eyes wide open and put their ears on the ground and watch out for signs of price manipulation.”

“Since the maintenance of the Malampaya power facility was scheduled months ago, it is gravely suspicious why the DOE did not find alternative sources to compensate for it. Repairs and maintenance of power plants are scheduled events.

There is no reason bakit kailangang magtaas ng singil sa kuryente sa tuwing gagawin ito. The effect of this is to constrict supply and therefore jack up prices in the spot market,” he said.

The lawmakers said that the DOE and ERC should implement a transparent and proper energy plan to prevent price manipulation.

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