Kapampangan heighten calls for refund, power rate rollback amid summer heat

Joann Manabat
Kapampangan heighten calls for refund, power rate rollback amid summer heat

REFUND. The Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered the San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company, Inc (SFELAPCO) to refund its consumers in Pampanga P654.4 million for unauthorized pass-on of power supply costs.

Joann Manabat

The San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company starts a competitive selection process to tap stable and cheaper energy for its consumers

PAMPANGA, Philippines –  As the heat index climbs to 38 °C degrees in Pampanga, 43-year-old tricycle driver Jonathan wonders how to cool down the small house that shelters their family of three in Brgy. Dolores, City of San Fernando.

The San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company (SFELAPCO) consumer was shocked to see his February to March electric bill more than double.

The family had never paid more than P400 a month for electricity, he told Rappler on March 20. Their appliances are limited to two electric fans, a television, a rice cooker, and a kettle.

Holding their new power bill, he said: “Wala naman kaming aircon, wala naman kaming refrigerator, tapos P800 yung babayaran namin. (We don’t have an air conditioner, and we don’t have a refrigerator, but we have to pay P800.)

His mother’s bill rose from P1,500 to 3,000, he added.

Jonathan earns a gross daily income of around P500 ferrying commuters from his post at SM City Pampanga. His take-home earnings have gone down due to the rising cost of diesel and other operations needs.

“Baka magpaypay na nga lang kami,” rued the power consumer who asked Rappler not to give his family name. (We might have to settle on hand fans.)

Waiting for a break

SFELAPCO on Tuesday, March 28 announced the start of a competitive selection process to tap stable, cheaper energy supply for its consumers.

Lyn Mercado’s household can’t wait for the effect of the new SFELAPCO program. But they also want the power firm to comply with the ERC refund order.

Lyn and her sister, Nimfa, who live in separate homes in the same compound, told Rappler they need every financial break they can get.

Lyn’s electric bill rose from P1,821.19 bill in January to P3,814.15 in February, with consumption stable at 215 to 285 kilowatts per month.

Nimfa, who owns a business, saw her power bill climb from P9,000 monthly bill to P15,000 in February.

The relatives have reduced the use of the air conditioner, regulated the temperature in their rooms, and unplugged unused appliances like television sets, fans, chargers,

“There is nothing much we can do because we still have to pay the bill. But we are all hopeful that there will be a refund underway,” Nimfa said.

STRUGGLING WITH POWER RATES. Johnny, a tricycle driver in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga bewails the doubling of the family’s electricity bill even as inflation and rising diesel costs eat up his daily earnings. Joann Manabat
Refund, support

ERC on March 3 ordered SFELAPCO to pay its consumers a P654.4 million refund for excess charges collected from January 2014 to December 2022.

The commission also handed down a P21.6-million penalty for violations of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2021, and the rules and guidelines for recovery cost.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, on Monday, March 27, met with City of San Fernando Mayor Vilma Caluag to show support for the plight of SFELAPCO consumers.

The senator urged early implementation of the ERC refund decision.

SFELAPCO could also have held back on its power rate hike, as a confidence-building measure or to show of good faith, while it challenged the ERC decision, Hontiveros said in a video shared by the City Information Office.

SUPPORT FOR CONSUMERS. City of San Fernando Mayor Vilma Caluag (right) discusses the situation of the power consumers in the City of San Fernando with Senator Risa Hontiveros on March 27, 2023. Sen. Risa Hontiveros Facebook page

SFELAPCO corporate communications officer Irwin Nucum told Rappler on March 16 that this is the first time in the company’s history that they are facing issues with rules and regulations.

“While we fully respect the ERC decision, we shall also explore all avenues and options available to us. Rest assured, we will continue to provide one of the cheapest power rates in our franchise areas,” Nucum said.

SFELAPCO has been distributing power to Pampanga’s capital since 1927.

Comparative costs

SFELAPCO senior vice president and general manager Jose Lazatin Lazatin invited Caluag to observe how their selection process is transparent and designed to choose the best option for consumers.

“We have received notice from other generators that they may have shares of renewable sources by the end of this year or early next year,” he added.

SFELAPCO needs to finish the CSP before its Emergency Power Service Agreement (EPSA) with GN Power expires in June.

SFELAPCO’s current generation rate per kilowatt hour (kwh) is P7.90 (plus value-added tax), up from P4.50.

The Department of Energy website lists three other power utility firms that service Pampanga consumers: Angeles Electric Corporation (AEC), Clark Electric Distribution Corporation (CEDC), and Pampanga Electric Corporation (PELCO) I, II, and III.

Their current generation rate per kilowatt hour (kwh) as posted on each of their websites:

  • AEC P9.8853 
  • CEDC P4.9323 
  • PELCO I P10.87 
  • PELCO II P13.3259 
  • PELCO III P8.9346 

The ERC refund order and penalty revolves around SFELAPCO implementing what the government agency calls an “unapproved contract” with Aboitiz Power Renewable Inc. (APRI).

In the the March 20 Senate hearing, the ERC revealed that more than 20 distribution utilities have been operating without an approved power supply agreement. 

However, SFELAPCO maintains the ERC allowed the implementation of unapproved contracts if power firms charge a lower rate not higher than the National Power Corporation Time of Use (NPC TOU).

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