Stakeholders clamor for review of Epira

By Cai U. Ordinario, Business Mirror

Posted at Jun 30 2011 07:19 AM | Updated as of Jun 30 2011 03:19 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Following a decade long implementation, stakeholders spearheaded by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) are clamoring for a “comprehensive, democratic and transparent” review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

FDC secretary-general Milo Tanchuling, in a statement, said various stakeholders and civil-society organizations believe that Epira, or Republic Act 9136, failed to deliver its promises.

“[The] Epira is a failure. It failed to fulfill its promises to the consumers and the economy. Instead of making our lives better, Epira makes our lives harsher and harder,” Tanchuling said.

When the Epira law was enacted, it promised to provide all Filipino consumers clean, accessible and reliable power supply, as well as affordable electricity rates.

Until now, however, many barangays in the regions of the country are still deprived of electricity. Lack of electricity in many parts of the country is also one of the factors why economic growth has not been broad-based or has not trickled down to rural and largely agriculture-based areas.

In a previous study, former National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Deputy Director General Gilberto Llanto said a percentage point increase in the number of households with electricity relative to the total number of households is associated with an increase of about P22 million per agricultural worker in agriculture productivity.

Further, both local and international data showed that the Philippines has one of, if not, the highest electricity rates in the region. High electricity rates have also been among the biggest factors that prevent the country from improving its competitiveness.

“It’s high time we review Epira through a democratic, transparent process that involves meaningful participation of experts, consumers, especially from vulnerable sectors and other stakeholders,” Tanchuling said.

Tanchuling said among the reasons the EPIRA has failed is due to the privatization of many power plants that provide clean energy to various parts of the country.

Through the Epira, FDC said the government is able to submit for privatization power plants like the Angat hydroelectric power plant in Norzagaray, the Unified geothermal power plant in Leyte and the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complexes in Mindanao.

These power plants, Tanchuling said, are among the last assets left to the National Power Corp. after privatization, which commenced with Epira’s passage in 2001. “Aside from being sources of cheap and renewable energy, these power plants are national treasures that should remain public,” he stressed.

The FDC said the movement calling for Epira reforms is expanding, not only in Luzon but also in the Visayas and Mindanao. This was one of the conclusions in the recent National Power Summit: Epira + 10, convened by FDC.

The event was attended by 200 participants from rural electric cooperatives, nongovernmental organizations, consumer groups, academe, House of Representatives and environmental organizations collectively assessed and sought solutions to problems besetting the power industry.

The summit was cosponsored by Greenpeace, Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives, 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Partylist, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, Foundation for Sustainable Society Inc., NGO Forum on ADB, Fair Trade Alliance, Partido Kalikasan, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party.