Davao consumers blame monopoly for power rate hikes

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 May) – Power consumers led by progressive groups on Monday held a rally in front of the Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) to protest power rate hikes which they attributed to the “monopoly of the power industry”.

The protesters blamed the Aquino government for the emergence of the “monopoly”.

“The P-Noy government has an accountability on this because he allows the power industry to be monopolized by few companies ran by his cronies – the Aboitizes, Henry Sy, Cojuangcos and Lopezes,” Grace Noval, Gabriela Women’s Partylist vice president for Mindanao, said.

Noval said the government has been depriving the people of electricity as a basic utility that is necessary to achieve their right to decent living.

Some of the protesters came earlier from a forum dubbed “Inaykupo, nakamamatay ang kuryenteng pamahal ng pamahal!” to discuss power related issues including the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which they wanted to be repealed along with the Value Added Tax being imposed on electricity bills.

A subsidiary of Aboitiz Group, the DLPC has increased power rate hikes by P.54 per kilowatt hour (kWh) during the rotating power interruptions, according to Ross Luga, Davao Light corporate communications officer.

He said each household paid an additional P94.5 based on the average consumption of 175 kWh.

But he said in the DLPC statement during the rally he was not aware of any increase at the moment.

The city had experienced rotating power outages of up to seven hours in recent months. Luga, however, pointed out the outages affected the whole of Mindanao.

He noted that it is not always the case that energy consumption tends to lessen during rotational outages.

Some consumers might use electricity more during the periods when it is available to compensate for or do the activities they could not do during blackouts, he explained.

Luga added the tendency whenever a power shortage occurs and causes rotational outages is to run the more expensive power sources such as fuel-fired power plants to cover for the non-availability of the less expensive ones.

National Power Corporation’s main sources are the hydropower plants that heavily depend on rains.

“If the distribution utility gets a greater portion of its power requirements from the more expensive suppliers, its generation mix rate increases,” Luga said.

The increase in generation mix rates affects the electricity bill, which also includes transmission and distribution rates that “usually remain relatively constant for about a year,” he said.

The DLPC meanwhile said it would not oppose the rally as long as it did not disrupt the company’s operations and that everybody’s safety was not compromised. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)