SC urged to permanently stop power rate hike

From a report by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2014 07:48 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2014 03:48 AM

MANILA – Members of women's group Gabriela marched to a Meralco branch on Tuesday to protest high electricity rates.

The grop wants the Supreme Court to permanently strike off the P4.15 hike in generation charges halted by a temporary restraining order (TRO).

"Sana ang New Year's resolution nitong ganid na Meralco, tigil-tigilan naman ‘yung pandurugas sa mga consumer,” said Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador.

Inside Meralco branches, long lines are also a common sight these days after the TRO caused confusion among consumers paying their bills.

While some settled their December bills, others opted to pay the equivalent of their November 2013 billing, which was one of the options set by Meralco in deference to the TRO.

Because of the TRO, Meralco also voluntarily set aside the estimated increase in generation charges for January 2014, which is also more than P4 per kilowatt hour.

Meralco instead pegged the generation charges for January at P5.67 per kilowatt hour, the same as November and December 2013.

"Wala sila masyadong makikita na pagbabago sa bill nila, kumbaga sa kunsumo nalamang po ‘yung magiging deperensya,” said Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga.

But consumers may be in for a bad surprise if the TRO is lifted.

Aside from the December spike of P4.15, the January hike estimated at also more than P4 per kilowatt hour may be passed on to consumers.

That's why consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) wants to stop the automatic pass-on charging of generation costs.

It has already asked the Supreme Court to order the Commission on Audit to audit Meralco's generation charges automatically passed on to consumers since 2004.

“There is no such thing as an automatic increase, dapat lamang ipasoli, lahat ng siningil sa atin na hindi dumaan sa due process sapagkat iligal ‘yun,” said Nasecore president Pete Ilagan.

But Meralco said all pass-on charges have passed the scrutiny of the Energy Regulatory Commission months after these have been paid by consumers.