'Malampaya woes won't affect Meralco consumers in Feb'

By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2014 04:39 PM | Updated as of Jan 09 2014 12:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) has assured Meralco consumers that the recent technical problem experienced by the Malampaya natural gas facility will not translate to higher generation rates for February.

According to Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, the Malampaya consortium has assured him that it will shoulder the cost of liquid condensates and biodiesel used by power plants to produce its contracted electricity for Meralco.

Liquid condensates and diesel are far more expensive than natural gas.

Meanwhile, Petilla said consumers cannot expect a reduction in their power bills in the next few months as their bills remained flat from December until now, despite actual and projected hikes in electricity rates brought about by the Malampaya shutdown in November and the unusual spike in market electricity prices.

But Petilla cannot say if Meralco bills are going up soon since this will entirely depend on the outcome of the Supreme Court decision.

He admits that he insisted to the President last December that the government's credibility will be affected if his resignation is not accepted. He said he asked the President if he can resign after the Meralco issue is settled but the President reportedly just brushed it off.

When asked why text messages are circulating that he will soon be replaced, Petilla said it's really up to the President but he will not file an irrevocable resignation.

He also said the DOE is studying options to compel contracts between Meralco and generators to have a replacement power provision.

He noted that while this means additional cost which will be passed on to consumers, at least generators will have to find ways to produce power to fulfill their contracts and not force Meralco to be exposed to the volatile spot market prices.

Meralco's exposure to the market widened in November as a result of emergency shutdown of several power plants.