Friday, February 20, 2009

Workers oppose power rates hike

20 February 2009

The labor partylist group, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), denounces the Energy Regulatory Commission for granting the National Power Corporation a provisional authority to increase its tariff rates by as much as P1.00/kwh beginning this month, even as the grounds for such a petition are yet to be deliberated in subsequent public hearings, the first of which, the pre-trial hearing, is yet to convene on February 24.

The provisional authority allows the Napocor to charge the distributors (DUs) an increase by an average 46.82 centavos per kWh in Luzon and 71.47 centavos per kWh in Mindanao. The increase, according to Meralco will translate to 17 centavos for Luzon customers or an additional P34 for those who consume 200 kWh per month.

The biggest increase, an average of P1.146 per kWh, will be in the Visayas region, whose people, in particular the poor people of Negros, are facing another tiempos muertes – a period in a year where the region encounter the highest incidence of hunger. The rate increase will take effect in the February 26 to March billing period.

The petition for rate adjustments, according to the Napocor, is intended to recoup its losses from giving incentives to consumers such as the mandatory rate reduction of 30 centavos provided under EPIRA. It also has to comply with a rate of return as required under its loan covenant with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

According to the ERC, this increase would remain provisional and could still change depending on the outcome of the hearings the state regulator will be conducting on the state generator’s application for the rate increase.

But the labor party complains that the ERC is committing another abuse of discretion by issuing such a provisional authority to a petition that is yet to be heard and in complete disregard of the current conditions of the Filipino people who are already reeling from the impact of the raging global economic crisis.

“Why the haste in giving out a provisional authority and why so callous in rendering almost a blanket approval of the Napocor petition,” protested PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda, in a statement sent to media.

Miranda said the new power rate increase bares with it the gross insensitivity of the government to the plight of the workers and the poor who are now facing massive job loss, wage cut, and work flexibilization schemes due to the crisis.

The labor group said the power rate increase, coupled with the government’s failure to address the pressing problems of displaced and unemployed workers, is fanning labor unrest in many regions of the country, thus protests in days ahead are to be expected.

“In its petition with the ERRC, what the Napocor has in mind is its loan covenant with the World Bank and the ADB, not its social contract with the consumers. This is not only callousness but cruelty bordering to treason,” concludes Miranda.

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