"Investigate Meralco power surge"

May 17, 2020

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to investigate Meralco for the surge in electricity bills despite the Inter-Agency Task Force in Managing Emeging Infectious Diseases  (IATF ) assurances that there is an overcapacity of supply.

“The recent Meralco justification that the surge in electricity bills of consumers is a result of higher consumption, is questionable especially since President Duterte reported a downward trend in demand during the lockdown period,"  the Deputy Minority leader said in a statement. 

"According to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s 6th Report dated May 4, 2020, “excess capacity over peak demands have been registered with Luzon only using 3,341 [29%] megawatts, Visayas only 858 MW  [33%] and Mindanao 878 MW [35%].  In fact, in the latest report of Pres. Duterte on May 11, he  reported that “major island grids exhibited excess capacity over peak demand with Luzon at 23% [2683 MW], Visayas 28% [718 MW] and Mindanao at 30% [30%]. So how can consumption increase when the demand is going down from as we enter the summer period?” asked the Davao-based solon

“In fact, Meralco rates should not increase because it has claimed “force majeure” among its supply contracts, meaning it will no longer pay its contract demand to its suppliers due to the COVID crisis.  The ERC must investigate the complaint of  surge in electricity bills since the government is empowered under Sec. 4 [i] and [u] of the Bayanihan law to regulate the supply power, fuel, energy and water and protect the people from profiteering, cartels, monopolies and other pernicious practices," said the progressive solon.

"We have long demanded that Meralco should in fact condone electricity charges during the lock down to help our burdened consumers and we hope that Meralco would heed our call," said Rep. Zarate.

Neri Colmenares meanwhile said that "aside from the ERC, Congress should also look into this new power rate hike and not be side tracked by Meralco's plan to file a case against a consumer who claimed that he received a P1.7M electric bill,"

“It seems that the Duterte administration's penchant for attacking online critics is contagious and Meralco has caughy the disease as well," said the progressive leader.

“As it is though Meralco is so confident of its clout that it seems that a bill should be filed for the dismantling of monopolies and prohibiting cross ownership between distribution utilities and power generation companies (gencos),” he pointed out.

“Meralco’s skyrocketing rates provide consumers and lawmakers alike painful proof that the law of supply and demand does not work when only one company – a monopoly like Meralco -- controls the supply of a product or service,” he said.

Colmenares continued: “We also cannot expect Meralco to pick the least cost of electricity from among genco suppliers when Meralco also owns its own gencos.

“In choosing its supplier, Meralco is not prohibited from looking for ways to favor its own generation company where it has a cross ownership. This way, Meralco rakes windfall profits as a generation company owner and as a distribution utility.

“This is not an idle observation. Just look at the way  Meralco has been charged with twisting the terms of reference for the next round of  bidding for its big power supply agreements, to favor its own Genco” he added

 “That’s why it is important that we must review the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and file new laws repealing Epira provisions that allow cross ownership between distribution utilities and gencos at the minimum or repealing EPIRA all together," ended Colmenares.