Makabayan bloc urges SC to act on 2013 petition vs Meralco rate hike

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2019 06:13 PM

MANILA - The Makabayan bloc has urged the Supreme Court (SC) to act on a 2013 petition it filed questioning Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) rate hike.

In a motion filed on Friday, the Makabayan bloc, led by former Bayan Muna Representative and now senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares, asked the high court to issue directions, provide status updates and immediately resolve the case.

The petition was filed in December 2013 seeking to permanently stop the imposition of Meralco’s rate hike.

Meralco had attributed the hike to the shutdown of the Malampaya power facility for maintenance, which coincided with the shutdown of other power facilities.

As a result, Meralco said power distributors would have to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and other power plants that run on diesel, leading to an increase in the generation charge.

The power company had claimed it did its best to mitigate the effects of the Malampaya shutdown by limiting its purchase from WESM to less than 10% of its energy requirements, but the Makabayan bloc pointed out in its submission that more than half of the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate hike came from energy purchased from WESM.

“The ERC’s approval of Meralco’s request for a staggered rate hike, the highest rate hike in the country’s history, is illegal, the same having been done in grave abuse of discretion. The circumstances that resulted to the rate hike expose the possible collusion, market abuse of power players and failure of regulation on the part of government. These circumstances resulted to the violation of due process rights of the captive power consumers,” the group reiterated its position in its filing on Friday.

Warning a repeat of the situation in 2013 in view of another Malampaya maintenance shutdown this year, the Makabayan bloc blamed the government’s lack of foresight in dealing with the shutdown.

“The 2013 Malampaya shutdown is a scheduled event known to the power players and to the government. And yet, government has not only failed to mitigate the possible energy crisis it will bring, but failed as well to regulate power players who took advantage of the shutdown, to the resulting prejudice of the consumers,” it said.

The high court had initially issued a 60-day temporary restraining order against Meralco’s rate hike in December 2013, which was extended indefinitely in April 2014, following oral arguments on the case in January 2014.

But the Makabayan bloc alleged Meralco was still able to impose several rate hikes from 2014 to 2018 despite the indefinite TRO, and the power company had in fact already collected payments with the first tranche of increase prior to the issuance of the TRO.

“Billions iyong nasingil kaya dapat utusan ng Korte Suprema na kahit gawin na niyang permanente ang TRO, ipa-account pa rin sa Meralco iyon,” Colmenares told the media before filing the motion.

The former lawmaker added they want to make the TRO permanent to do away with the threat of having the TRO reversed.