“The government is insensitive to our plight and let big corporations like Meralco to profit even from the poorest people.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – It was Zenia Utanes’ birthday, Dec. 6, but she was not at home with her children celebrating; she was with women in front of the Meralco main office in Ortigas, Pasig City protesting against another increase in power rates.
Utanes, 37, is a single mother with seven children; her youngest is only one year old. She is fuming at another power rate hike to be implemented this month. She said another price increase in basic utilities like power is a heavy burden for her.
Meralco announced an increase of P3.44 ($.08) per kilowatt-hour in generation charge due to an ongoing maintenance shutdown at the Malampaya gas facility. Meralco President Oscar S. Reyes also said in a report that the increase is also due to its “much higher dependence on the wholesale spot market and a very significant spike in prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).”
This was slammed by women’s group Gabriela, which stormed on Friday the offices of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Meralco both in Ortigas. “It (the increase) ruins our Christmas,” said Misty Lorin, deputy secretary general of Gabriela. She added that the increase will greatly affect the family’s budget for noche buena and gifts for children. “The budget for the family will just be spent on paying bills.”
The said $.08/kwh increase would mean an additional of more than P800 ($18.24) for a household that consumes 200 kilowatt-hours a month. Prior to the planned increase this December, Meralco had already imposed an increase of P1.24 ($.03) per kilowatt-hour in November. Add to that an increase in oil prices including the increase in liquefied petroleum gas, which amounts to P870 ($19.84) to around P900 ($20.45) per 11 kilogram of LPG tank from the previous P760 ($17.33) per tank.
“We are here today because we want you to hear our call to stop this callous increase in power rates,” Utanes said in a program held in front of Meralco. “You did not even consult the people, the poor people who will be greatly affected by this increase. And then you say, ‘Maliwanag ang buhay’ (life is bright), that is only for you – for those who are profiteering from the people who work sweat and blood just to pay electricity bill!” the fuming Utanes said.
Gabriela also slammed the ERC for not being able to control the non-stop increase in power rates and instead, making it easy for Meralco to increase power rates. The group said the planned deliberations with the ERC and Meralco on Dec. 9 is nothing but a show. The said deliberation will determine how much the Meralco will increase its rates.
“Even if they say that the increase will be staggered so that it will not be a burden to consumers. But still, staggered or not, the point is that they would increase their rates,” Lorin said.
“What I earn is not enough for my seven children and the other obligations I had to pay. I even couldn’t pay my bill in one payment; how much more when the increase will be implemented?” Utanes told Bulatlat.com. She is among the many residents of urban poor communities who buy electricity from others because they could not afford to acquire their own electric meter.
Utanes pay at least P400 ($9.12) a month for electricity. But being a single mother and not having a regular job make it difficult for mothers like Utanes to pay even $9.12 or more in a month. Add to that the food and snacks for children going to school.
“We only have one light and one electric fan and yet we pay $9.12? I think that is too much and that is because the cost of electricity is just expensive.” Utanes earns from selling dried fish. When she is not able to sell much, Utanes said, they only have rice with oil and salt in it. “My children are fine with it, as long as there is rice.”
Badet Andales, 45, have two children and grandchildren living with her. Her electricity bill is more than P1000 ($22.81) a month. “We only have one television and two lights. We do not have a refrigerator,” said Andales who is also puzzled why her electricity is reaching more than a thousand a month. Her electricity was cut because she was not able to pay. Now they are tapping from their neighbor but she is using a sub-meter to compute how much electricity she is using. She too has no regular job and only sells newspapers.
“What will happen to our family? We have no regular job and yet we have to pay for expensive electricity. We can only eat twice a day; can we still eat if what we earn from selling will only be used to pay for electricity,” said Elit Sta. Maria, also a mother and member of Gabriela from Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
“People might say that we are always protesting and there has been no good president for us,” said Jinky Panganiban of Gabriela.
“This is because nothing has changed in our situation. Mothers remain not having a regular job and have been doing everything just to make both ends meet. The government is insensitive to our plight and let big corporations like Meralco to profit even from the poorest people.”