“ERC is subjecting consumers once again to the presumably overpriced negotiated prices between Meralco and its affiliated generation companies.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Sixty-four percent of Filipinos find it hard to pay for their electricity in recent months. Regarding water bills, 41 percent of Filipinos had trouble paying. This is the finding of IBON’s latest survey. IBON’s Opinion Survey was conducted from September 1-12 among 1,505 respondents in 17 regions of the country. It employed field interviews and a multi-stage probability sampling scheme with a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error.
The Philippines has one of the highest prices of electricity in the world. The industry is operated mainly by private corporations.
Unfortunately, those struggling to pay their electric bills may even increase rather than decrease in the future as more excuses for hiking electricity rates continue to surface. In Congress, lawmakers led by Bayan Muna representatives filed this Monday, November 21, a resolution asking for an inquiry into the alleged midnight deals of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco)-affiliated generation companies and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Meralco is the country’s largest electricity distributor.
Such is the extent of questionable transactions in the ERC that the suicide last November 9 of ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. has also been linked to it. Zarate said the alleged corruption-laden transactions within the ERC resulted in Villa’s unfortunate death.
A consumers group also called for an “independent investigation to avoid a whitewash” on the suicide of Villa. They said talk was rife that Villa had been under intense pressure to approve anomalous transactions. They heard Villa had left suicide notes revealing the rigged selection system in ERC’s bids and awards committee, the consumers’ group Alyansa para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP, Inc.) said in a statement.
The day before Villa’s suicide, on November 8, the said consumers’ group filed a petition at the Supreme Court (SC) calling for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) seeking to stop seven midnight contracts, which, it said, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approved “without undergoing the competitive selection process.”
Both Bayan Muna and the consumers group are demanding explanations for why the ERC “mysteriously” extended the deadline for the Competitive Selection Process (CSP). Instead of Nov. 6 ladt year, the deadline was extended by another five months, to April 30 this year. Four days short of this “generous deadline”, applications for contract approval were filed with the ERC.
Zarate believes that no thanks to this deadline extension, up to 3,551 megawatts of negotiated power supply agreements (PSA) for 20 years were inked without real competitive bidding.
“ERC is subjecting consumers once again to the presumably overpriced negotiated prices between Meralco and its affiliated generation companies,” Zarate said.
ABP estimates that the midnight deal alone will cost the consumers P12.44 billion ($248.8 million) a year for the next 20 years. They called on President Rodrigo Duterte to order an investigation into Villa’s suicide and for justice for overburdened consumers. Duterte has recently ordered the ERC commissioners to resign.