GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 December) – Six Party List members of the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives have petitioned the Supreme Court to stop Meralco from implementing the three-tiered rate increase of electricity for December, February and March. Meralco has increased its rate by P4.15 per kilowatthour and to soften the impact has staggered with the approval of the ERC (Energy Regulation Commission) the collection. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 20th, 2013: SC urged: Stop power rate hike)
What is not clear in the reports is whether in April the rate would return to the November level. In all probability, it will not. The price trend has been irreversible – once increased it stays increased until another increase comes.
The petition is the last recourse to bail the Meralco consumers from the excessive increase of electricity rate. The ERC which should have denied the increase had approved it instead. The President who has the constitutional power to protect the people from unfair trade practice did not lift a hand since the ERC is not under his control.
The case is under separate investigations by the Senate, the Department of Justice and the DOE (Department of Energy). But the investigations will take time and there is no guarantee the Meralco rate will go back to the November level after that.
The question is: Will the Supreme Court act expeditiously in favor of the consumers? That is all that matters most. Let the investigators determine the culpability of Meralco and the power generation and supply sectors that have suspiciously cause an artificial power shortage but don’t let the Meralco consumers suffer.
The petitioners have also asked the Court to declare unconstitutional two provisions of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001) which have kept the power generation and supply sectors beyond the regulatory powers of the ERC. Striking down the two provisions is not enough; the EPIRA must be amended.
This shows the incompetence of the Congress. It does not regularly review the laws for necessary amendments or repeal. In the case of the EPIRA, the two questionable provisions do not consider the power generation and supply sector “public utilities” so they are not under ERC regulation. If so, the law should have provided for a body or agency to regulate their charges.
Now, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was among those who passed the EPIRA, is proposing to review the law. The amendment of the EPIRA will prevent the repetition of the present excessive power rate increase; but will not relieve the Meralco consumers of their suffering from unfair trade practice.
The petitioners — Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, Gabriela Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon — have a very good case. May the Supreme Court see the merit and stop Meralco from collecting the P4.15 power rate increase.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, an alternate of COMMENT, is specifically an opinion on current news. [email protected]]