Recent power hike highlights urgency of repealing EPIRA

The latest rate hike announced by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) reinforces consumers’ long-time demand to repeal Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.

Research group IBON also urges Pres. Aquino, who as Tarlac representative voted against the EPIRA in 2001, to take steps in repealing the pro-corporation law.

Under the EPIRA, automatic monthly adjustments in electricity prices are made without the benefit of public hearings. Through pass-on charges in monthly bills, these adjustments burden not only the 4.7 million customers in the franchise area of Meralco, but also consumers and businesses throughout the country.

EPIRA has also made price manipulation rampant such as the cases of price rigging in the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) and questionable bilateral price contracts between related power distributors and generating companies like the case of Meralco and its own independent power producers (IPPs).

According to IBON, instead of allowing Meralco to raise its rates at whim, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) should pursue the refund that the utility giant still owes its customers. It must also be held to account for the fresh overcharging allegations of around P7 billion made by the Commission on Audit in its report made public in February this year. It must be noted that the ERC still allowed Meralco to increase distribution, supply, metering charges last April despite these allegations.

To protect consumers from high electricity rates, the research group urges the Aquino government to review the country’s existing power program and take immediate steps in strengthening regulation in the power sector. (end)

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