DOE to probe Meralco power rate hike
The Energy department and some senators want an inquiry into Meralco's huge power rate hike for December

HIGHER BILLS. Meralco customers will have to shell out more for electricity in December, February and March. AFP PHOTO/Jay Directo

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy will look into how Manila Electric Company (Meralco) computed its power rate increase for the month of December.

At the hearing of the House committee on Energy on Tuesday, December 10, DOE Undersecretary Raul Aguilos said that DOE chief Jericho Petilla has ordered an investigation into Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate hike.

Aguilos said the rate increase was much higher than the P1.58 per kWh that the department had anticipated.

Meralco earlier explained that the rate increase was due to the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility and outages of other power plants where the utility firm sources its power requirements from. These forced Meralco to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market and other plants that run on diesel, which is more expensive than natural gas.

Aguilos said the energy secretary also wants a probe into why power plants shut down simultaneously.

“These outages were not anticipated that’s why the secretary ordered an investigation. The secretary finds it hard to believe that the power plants had outages all at the same time,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

On Monday, December 9, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approved Meralco’s plan to implement the rate hike on staggered basis.

Senate inquiry

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed Senate Resolution 411, seeking an inquiry into Meralco’s rate hike. He said the increase runs counter to the objectives of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act  or EPIRA.

“It is incumbent upon the Senate, through the Senate Committee on Energy and other appropriate committees, to protect public interest and safeguard the rights of consumers from alleged unjust financial burden and abuse of the law, especially at a time when the country is still reeling from a string of natural and man-made catastrophes,” he said.

For his part, Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, said he wants the “coincidental” shutdown of power plants investigated.

“There’s a sudden shortage. There should be an investigation on why so many plants suddenly shut down. Wait a minute, this is too coincidental… We should find out if there is collusion,” Osmeña said in an interview with reporters.

Some members of the House of Representatives also criticized ERC for its failure to uphold public interest by approving the huge rate hike.

“Is the increase for public interest? This will result in a domino effect on fares and prices of goods,”  Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate asked the ERC if it could withhold the increase.

ERC Commissioner Josefina Patricia Asirit warned, however, that delaying the increase would result into “more burdensome charges.” –

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