'PH power rates 5th highest in the world'

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 11 2011 07:34 AM | Updated as of Oct 11 2011 10:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s power rates are now the fifth highest in the world, Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza of the party-list group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said yesterday.

“We are not just the highest in Asia in terms of residential rates, but the fifth highest in the world,” he said.

Mendoza said the country’s electricity rate is P10.52 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), the fifth highest after the rates in Austria, which is equivalent to P11.78, Italy P11.84, Germany P13.87, and Denmark P14.98.

“And with several petitions for rate increases pending before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) totaling to more than P5 per kwh, our electricity rates could be the highest in the world both for industrial and residential users soon,” he stressed.

Earlier, the TUCP and several business organizations, including the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, appealed to President Aquino to address the problem of soaring power rates.

The groups said high electricity rates are a big turnoff to foreigners wanting to invest or expand their businesses here.

Mendoza lamented that they have not received a response from Malacañang while Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras dismissed their complaint as “nothing new.”

He said the energy chief should have considered their appeal seriously since high electricity cost “renders the Philippine economy as non-competitive with our neighbors like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Cambodia.”

The lawmaker also criticized deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte for her “high-handed” answer to their appeal.

Valte has told the TUCP and other groups to bring their complaint before the ERC.

“Madame spokesperson, read our lips: ERC is part of the problem,” Mendoza said.

‘Power Off’ drive tonight

Women’s groups under the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) will spearhead the “Power-Off” campaign when communities, offices and households in various parts of the country switch their lights off and hold a noise barrage tonight.

FDC women’s committee said that since women bear the responsibility of managing household budgets, they are also saddled with the burden of stretching meager incomes to cover basic expenses.

The Philippines now has the highest electricity rates in Asia, and higher than Japan.

They blamed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) as one of the major causes of women’s increasing burdens.

“The EPIRA has failed women miserably as 40 percent of households still do not have electricity to date. Higher electricity rates mean additional work, more debts and no rest for women,” said FDC vice president Manjette Lopez.

Ana Maria Nemenzo, an FDC trustee and former president of the coalition, called on consumers, organizations and coalitions to join the nationwide “Power-Off” drive from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Various groups, including the local governments of Cebu, Tacloban and Negros Occidental, have passed their respective resolutions supporting the campaign.

Apart from its demand to put a stop to skyrocketing power rates, FDC also urged the Aquino administration to remove the 12-percent expanded value added tax on electricity and repeal the EPIRA law.

The group also called on the government to stop the privatization of the remaining assets and contracts of the National Power Corp.

Among these assets are the Angat hydro-electric power plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan; the Unified Leyte Geothermal Plants in Eastern Visayas; and the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex in Mindanao.