Eastern Samar

Eastern Samar folk reel as power rates double

Ricky Bautista
Eastern Samar folk reel as power rates double

RISING POWER RATES. Eastern Samar folk see the power rate increases imposed by Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative Inc. as a major financial burden.

Esamelco Facebook

Aside from power bills doubling from December 2022 to January and February 2023, Eastern Samar residents also deal with frequent power outages

CATBALOGAN, Philippines — Buko Pie vendor Razil Glave was surprised to see their Borongan City, Eastern Samar household’s power bill for January 2023 more than double the month before.

Their old power bill ranged from P800 to P1000. In January, it jumped to P2,300, and in February, P2,156.

“Bakit po ganun, eh yung gamit namin di naman nagbabago,” Glave said on Sunday, March 26, referring to the actual usage figure on their bill from the Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative (Esamelco). (Why did that happen when our use of power has not changed.)

The household only uses a few bulbs, a lone television set, three electric fans, and an oven for their small kakanin (native sweets) business.

“We always try talaga na magtipid. Pero bakit ganun, pataas pa rin ng pataas ang bill namin?” the micro-entrepreneur complained. (We always try to limit out electricity use. But how come our bill remains high.)

“Nahihirapan kami syempre, kasi kapag tumataas (ang bill namin) sa kuryente, lumiliit naman ang income namin,” Glave said. (Of course, we struggle, because every time the bill goes up, our income goes down.)

Costly, inefficient

Jerome Sual, also a resident of Borongan City, is angry at the combination of high rates and inefficient service. He tried to hold off payment while challenging his household’s latest power bills, which hit more than P5,000 in February.

But on March 21, Sual told Rappler he can no longer ignore three months of unpaid bills. 

The alternative is disconnection – and disaster for his small poultry business.

“Makuri gad, makuri gad, labi na kay nadungan paghinitaas it papliton yana,” Jerome, a poultry owner, said.

(It’s hard, it’s hard, especially now that the prices of basic commodities are steadily rising.)

Why power rates are rising in some of the country’s poorest communities is also a question House minority leader Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan wants to be answered.

Esamelco is the lone electricity distributor in Eastern Samar’s 22 municipalities and the provincial capital of Borongan City – a service area with a population of almost 500,000.

“Eastern Samar is also reeling not only from excessive electricity rates but also from recurring power outages and persistent low voltage power supply,” Libanan said of the province prone to natural disasters and with an underdeveloped market. 

The legislator filed on March 19 House Resolution (HR) No. 846, which seeks a congressional probe in aid of legislation into Esamelco’s power rate hike and poor service performance.

“The extremely high rate is unacceptable, considering that Esamelco cannot even provide reliable power supply on a constant and continuous basis,” Libanan said.

Libanan used to be the representative of the province’s lone congressional district but now represents that 4Ps party list.

‘Pass on charges’

Esamelco explained that the power increase is mainly due to their Luzon-based suppliers’ Generation System Charge (GSC).

The power coop describes the bill increase as “Pass on charges.”

In their last power rate increase announcement, dated Feb. 10, Esamelco confirmed that the cooperative increased December and January rates by around P1.37 per kilowatt hour for all residential buildings.

That means an increase from P14.28/kwh to P15.65/kwh in January.

For commercial, industrial, and public buildings, the power coop also increased the January power rate to P14.45/kwh from an original rate of P13.05, an increase of P1.40 per kilowatt hour.

Libanan also wants to find the reasons for Esamelco’s “deteriorating service.”

“Kailangan mapagtuunan ito ng pansin dahil isa po ito sa necessity ng ating mga kababayan. Ang madalas na power outage at mataas na presyo ng kuryente ay malaki po ang epekto sa araw-araw nating pamumuhay,” Libanan said. (We need to focus because power is a basic need. The frequent power outage and high power rates have major impact on our daily life.)

Both Glave and Sua support the congressional probe.

“Dapat lang po (ito) para magkaalaman na kung bakit patuloy ang increase, at para na rin mahanapan ng paraan para bumaba ang presyo (ng kuryente) sa amin,” Glave said. (That’s right, so we know the reason for continuing rate hikes, and so we can look for ways to bring these down.)

“We must stress that all electric cooperatives are duty-bound to provide a dependable and adequate supply of electricity in their service areas,” Libanan said. – Rappler.com

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