Tag Archives: Meralco

Power crisis real, strategic but gov’t doing mere quick fix – labor coalition

The emerging power crisis is a cruel outcome of a bad policy under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that cannot be resolved by the proposed emergency power President Aquino is seeking from Congress, the labor coalition Nagkaisa said in a statement.

The group said it is not common for ordinary workers to comment on techno-economic aspects of the power industry, but for this coming celebration of Bonifacio Day on November 30, labor will come out loud on this along with other big issues because the high cost of power in the country is making the lives of ordinary workers more miserable.

According to Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson for Partido Manggagawa (PM) and one of the convenors of Nagkaisa, “this quick-fix solution via an emergency power to address a decade-old problems of escalating rates and diminishing supply reignited labor’s apprehension that once again, a power crisis is being transformed into business opportunity for the private sector.”

Fortaleza was referring to the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) and power contracting being pursued through a joint resolution in Congress that would grant the President emergency powers to address the expected power shortage in 2015.

He said the ILP can be pursued by the Department of Energy (DoE) even without the President exercising emergency powers because it is merely a demand-side management issue and not production of additional generating capacity as required under Section 71 of EPIRA.

“Likewise, the foreign and privately-operated National Grid Corporation must first be made to account for its primary responsibility to secure reliable supply, including sufficient reserve capacities,” argued Fortaleza.

The group explained that the ILP is a mode for utilizing standby power or embedded generating capacity available in several establishments such as malls and commercial buildings. During shortage, their utilization means an x amount of freed megawatt capacity that can be supplied by Meralco to other users.

Fortaleza, however, said that for this alone an emergency power is not needed. So why is Malacanang asking for it? The group can only think of the following scenarios:

– Under the ILP enrollment is voluntary but enrollees will be compensated to incentivize their participation

– But because there is no system currently in place to exactly determine the price of compensation, imposing a universal levy – an x amount per kWh to be charged to consumers take-or-pay – is the most likely scheme.

– Retail electricity suppliers (RES) who already posses contracted capacities under the open access (but which they cannot supply to their contestable market because most of them are also ILP players) will also be compensated.

These, in effect, will result to rate increases. But Fortaleza insists that a take-or-pay levy cannot be charged to consumers under ILP since embedded generation sets were designed or were practically built by industry players to address expected and non-expected outages.

“So why do we have to pay them for that temporary sacrifice? And why will Henry Sy, John Gokongwei and Jaime Ayala charge an x amount per kWh from everyone, including non-mall users?”

The group argued further that the only valid excuse for utilizing emergency powers is when the government goes back to generation, stop industry fraud, and makes a decisive shift to renewable energy and energy democracy.

Revoke Meralco Franchise, Pull the Plug on EPIRA

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On Valentine’s Day, the Power to the People Coalition tell Meralco, “It’s Over.”

Meralco has failed the Filipino people. They promised cheap, widespread access to electricity, yet the only thing they mustered thus far are scandalous electricity rates that they expected ordinary Filipinos to meekly comply with.

Meralco has consistently regarded ordinary Filipino consumers with the heartless, corporate greed for profit. The most recent spike in power rates proved this. Meralco made the absurd argument that it is not responsible for the record-high electricity rates simply because it had no power over the forced outages their power suppliers implemented. It became even more ridiculous when Meralco played the victim by claiming that it had no choice but to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for the power deficit.

Nothing could be farther away from the truth. Documents submitted to the Supreme Court showed that it was Meralco’s order to power supplier Therma Mobile, which it controls, to bid at the maximum allowable price of P62.00 per kilowatt hour no less than 25 times during that period that was responsible for the skyhigh clearing price at the WESM. In short, Meralco gamed the market to benefit itself and other power producers. By doing so it defrauded its consumers whom it is obligated to supply electricity at the least possible cost.

We belie Meralco’s claims that it was powerless over the simultaneous forced outages of its power producers. The shutdown of Malampaya for maintenance, and the shutdown of two other power plants for the same reason, were all scheduled. Meralco saw it coming, and they took the most convenient and profitable course of action. They chose to sit back, game the power industry, and make consumers pay for it all.

That Meralco systematically abused the Filipino people is but a symptom of the failure of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). We must not forget that EPIRA is the main source of the problem; it put the whole industry under the gang rule of private power – from generation to transmission sectors, all the way to the cooperatives in the distribution sector. Privatization of the power industry has resulted in monopoly control, inefficient power delivery and sky-high prices, in direct contradiction to the promises EPIRA made to attain efficiency and break the monopoly in the electricity industry, and lower power prices. That Meralco’s profits have risen over 100 per cent since EPIRA went into effect in 2001, and that Meralco has the power to game the market at the expense of the people is a monstrous example of EPIRA’s failure.

13 years of Meralco’s greed and EPIRA’s exploitation of power consumers have pushed the people to a deeper level of destitution. To this, we raise our voice and declare that this abusive relations is over.  We call on the government to heed the people’s call: it is high time the government revokes Meralco’s mega-franchise and pulls the plug on EPIRA.

Revoke Meralco Franchise, Pull the Plug on EPIRA

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On Valentine’s Day, the Power to the People Coalition tell Meralco, “It’s Over.”

Meralco has failed the Filipino people. They promised cheap, widespread access to electricity, yet the only thing they mustered thus far are scandalous electricity rates that they expected ordinary Filipinos to meekly comply with.

Meralco has consistently regarded ordinary Filipino consumers with the heartless, corporate greed for profit. The most recent spike in power rates proved this. Meralco made the absurd argument that it is not responsible for the record-high electricity rates simply because it had no power over the forced outages their power suppliers implemented. It became even more ridiculous when Meralco played the victim by claiming that it had no choice but to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for the power deficit.

Nothing could be farther away from the truth. Documents submitted to the Supreme Court showed that it was Meralco’s order to power supplier Therma Mobile, which it controls, to bid at the maximum allowable price of P62.00 per kilowatt hour no less than 25 times during that period that was responsible for the skyhigh clearing price at the WESM. In short, Meralco gamed the market to benefit itself and other power producers. By doing so it defrauded its consumers whom it is obligated to supply electricity at the least possible cost.

We belie Meralco’s claims that it was powerless over the simultaneous forced outages of its power producers. The shutdown of Malampaya for maintenance, and the shutdown of two other power plants for the same reason, were all scheduled. Meralco saw it coming, and they took the most convenient and profitable course of action. They chose to sit back, game the power industry, and make consumers pay for it all.

That Meralco systematically abused the Filipino people is but a symptom of the failure of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). We must not forget that EPIRA is the main source of the problem; it put the whole industry under the gang rule of private power – from generation to transmission sectors, all the way to the cooperatives in the distribution sector. Privatization of the power industry has resulted in monopoly control, inefficient power delivery and sky-high prices, in direct contradiction to the promises EPIRA made to attain efficiency and break the monopoly in the electricity industry, and lower power prices. That Meralco’s profits have risen over 100 per cent since EPIRA went into effect in 2001, and that Meralco has the power to game the market at the expense of the people is a monstrous example of EPIRA’s failure.

13 years of Meralco’s greed and EPIRA’s exploitation of power consumers have pushed the people to a deeper level of destitution. To this, we raise our voice and declare that this abusive relations is over. We call on the government to heed the people’s call: it is high time the government revokes Meralco’s mega-franchise and pulls the plug on EPIRA.

Workers ask Senate to declare EPIRA a failure

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With the committee on energy resuming its probe on the spike in Meralco rate today, the labor coalition Nagkaisa, pressed the Senate as a whole to declare the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) a failure and consider crafting a new policy framework for sustainable energy and energy democracy.

The group, which held another picket outside the Senate building, said that unless there is a declaration to that effect, public hearings and investigations will offer no material relief to consumers.

Nagkaisa explained that since 2008, consumer groups have attended, submitted position papers, and argued against the ills of EPIRA before committee hearings of both houses of Congress, including those conducted by the powerful Joint Congressional Power Committee (JCPC). Yet no actions were made to address those concerns.

“Public hearings end with another scheduled hearing then nothing happens until another controversy arises. Workers are really tired of wishy-washy intervention on a social problem of this scale,” Nagkaisa said, referring to the crises of escalating power rates and diminishing supply.

Nagkaisa asserted that since the enactment of EPIRA which led to the deregulation of the generation of generation sector, privatization of Napocor assets, creation of the spot market, and the introduction of performance-based regulation. Fraud became the norm in the power industry as shown by rising prices and cartelization.

The group reminded the Senate that in 2008, Senator Miriam Santiago who chaired the JCPC then stated in her opening remarks in one of JCPC’s public hearings that EPIRA is a failure; the Senate is a failure as well as the Executive.

“That is seven years ago and the people will not accept another decade of unrewarding probes to a mess that has been there since day one of the implementation of EPIRA,” said the group.

Nagkaisa has been protesting the power hikes which they believed were caused by flawed policies under EPIRA.

Workers to ‘gods of Faura’: Stop power firms’ blackmail, fraud

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While politicians and businessmen have joined President Aquino for the National Day of Prayer and Solidarity to the victims of natural and man-made calamities, workers in Metro Manila belonging to the labor coalition Nagkaisa, trooped to the Supreme Court to seek relief and ultimate deliverance from unjust power rate hikes.

The fifteen (15) justices, also known as ‘The gods of Faura’, were set to hear oral arguments tomorrow on several petitions seeking injunctions to Meralco’s P4.15/kWh rate increase. Prime in the agenda to resolve are questions on whether or not the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) committed grave abuse of discretion in approving Meralco rate hike; whether or not automatic rate adjustment is valid; and whether or not the generation sector is not a public utility and therefore beyond regulation by ERC, among others.

“We pray that the justices deliver us from a decade-old fraud and industry blackmail,” said Nagkaisa in a statement released during their picket at the gates of the Supreme Court building. The group was referring to frauds committed under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), including the latest allegations on collusion and market abuse among power firms and the latter’s threat of rotating blackouts had they fail to collect rate increases.

Nagkaisa asserted that since the enactment of EPIRA which led to the deregulation of the generation of generation sector, privatization of Napocor assets, the creation of spot market, and the introduction of performance-based regulation, fraud became the norm in the power industry as shown by rising prices and cartelization.

“It is no secret that owners of power firms, the so-called Voltage 5 (Aboitiz, Lopez, San Miguel, Henry Sy, and Pangilinan) have been earning record high profits from record high tariffs of their power-related firms,” said Nagkaisa.

The labor coalition recalled that lowering the cost of power was the pledge of the Arroyo administration when it prodded Congress to pass the EPIRA upon assumption to power 13 years ago today.

Nagkaisa explained further that since 2008, many of its convenor groups have attended, submitted position papers, and argued against the ills of EPIRA before committee hearings of both houses of Congress, including those conducted by the powerful Joint Congressional Power Committee (JCPC). Yet no actions were made to address those concerns.

It likewise chided the Executive for peddling the line that the only choice for now is between expensive power, or having no power at all.

“We hope the Supreme Court brings light to a dark decade of power hikes, naked greed, and blackmail amid unreliability of power supply,” concluded Nagkaisa!

If Petilla can offer his head, why can’t Ducut and Ocampo do the same?

The news of Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Jericho Petilla tendering his resignation in the wake of failure to meet his self-imposed deadline in bringing back electricity to areas ravaged by typhoon Yolanda is all over the air.  Whether the President will accept his resignation or not can be part of a ploy. But nevertheless, Petilla had the guts to place his head on the chopping board.

We wonder, however, if other inept officials in the energy family – particularly Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Zenaida Ducut and Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) head Mel Ocampo can do the same.

Petilla who heads the DoE is equally responsible for the government’s failure to stop the P4.15/kWh rate increase imposed by Meralco.  But Ducut and Ocampo who are in the frontline and supposed to be the first persons to detect market failure and protect consumers’ welfare stood idle before the coming tsunami of power hikes. They therefore should go.

Truth is, throughout their tenures, they have consistently failed to discharge their duties of regulating the power industry properly. The latest fiasco is just the culmination of years of ineptitude and incompetence.

As early as 2012, they were aware of scheduled maintenance shutdown and yet they did nothing to prevent the largest market failure in the power sector to date. In the process they unduly enriched Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to the tune of 10 billion pesos for a month’s worth of power outages!

They should go based on the principle of command responsibility. At the least, they allowed the electricity market to be gamed, and at the most, they are a party to the reported collusion among power firms.

Ducut and Ocampo should be investigated for possible charges of economic sabotage.

It’s also the time for the regime of Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to go.

– NAGKAISA! Statement

Predatory MERALCO price hike slammed by NAGKAISA

Meralco already insured against maintenance shutdowns, Power Supply Agreements cover Meralco risk with power providers

The NAGKAISA labor coalition denounced the December P3.50 per kWh rate increase as an immoral imposition and an unconscionable predatory move in the face of our massive national suffering and despair. Instead of moderating its greed, MERALCO and the generating companies First Gas (Sta. Rita), South Premier Power Corporation (Ilijan) and Therma Mobile, Inc. (San Lorenzo) – which are its cohorts – chose to further impoverish hardworking Filipinos and complicate the already difficult road to national recovery.

MERALCO residential rates currently pegged at Php12.46 per kWh will now be hiked to Php15.96 per kWh, representing a 28% increase. The new rate is equivalent to US$ 37 cents per kWh. That is the highest residential rate, bar none, in the WORLD. Its consequences for families coping with the triple whammy of NAPOLES-scale corruption, spiralling oil and LPG prices, and natural calamities are immense.

For industry, where power rates already constitute 45% to 55% of operational costs, particularly for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and BPOs, the rate increase will greatly affect their business viability. For the national economy, it compromises our regional competitiveness in the ASEAN and will be a disincentive to locators remaining and to the entry of foreign direct investments.

NAGKAISA pointed out that before a new tariff formula called Performance-Based Rate-making (PBR) was implemented by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), MERALCO only made an annual net profit ranging from Php3 to Php6 billion. Under PBR in 2012, MERALCO declared a net income of Php16.25 billion. For 2013 MERALCO expects a consolidated net income of Php17 billion. NAGKAISA decried this overly-generous rate of return allowed by ERC which allowed MERALCO to earn in just one year what it used to take them 3 years to earn.

NAGKAISA also countered the MERALCO assertion that the maintenance work on Malampaya and resorting to the more expensive sources of WESM would result in a power rate increase of anywhere from Php2 per kWh to Php3.50 per kWh. NAGKAISA argues the following:

  • The scheduled maintenance of Malampaya and other plants should or was already imputed in the MERALCO rate. If MERALCO management did not prudently build this into their rate then the owners and management of MERALCO should bear the loss, not the consumers. The maintenance was scheduled way ahead of time and the cost consequences should already have been placed in the power supply agreements which MERALCO entered into.
  • If there is a forced outage, MERALCO and the power producers First Gas (Santa Rita), Therma Mobile (San Lorenzo) and SPPC (Ilijan) from which MERALCO buys its power are insured against possible spikes in costs. Why is MERALCO passing the burden to consumers when there is insurance for forced outages. Again, if MERALCO did not enter into any form of insurance or contract stipulation as to who will pay for the alternative supply in case of an outage (the alternative supply in this case is WESM), then MERALCO again has acted imprudently and should bear the cost of its imprudence.
  • MALAMPAYA is providing only a certain percentage of the power needs of MERALCO. Why are the entire costs of the downtime of Malampaya being borne by MERALCO consumers? How did it amount to a possible P3.50 per kWh increase?
  • Why has the ERC as regulator not stepped-in to validate the current claims of MERALCO when there are Commission on Audit findings of overcollection in 2004 and 2007 in the generation charges of MERALCO? Does ERC take the manifestations of MERALCO and the generation players as gospel truth?
  • Why has the DOE – or the Palace for that matter – not addressed the possibility of resorting to the MALAMPAYA FUND to reduce rates and to cushion the impact if indeed there is a problem not anticipated in the power supply contracts entered into between MERALCO and the generators?

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT CONSUMERS ARE BEING MADE TO ADVANCE WHAT THE MERALCO WILL BE COLLECTING FROM ITS INSURERS EVENTUALLY. When MERALCO entered into its supply contracts, it inputted and covered against all projected events and the cost consequences. These costs were built into the original power supply agreement and are therefore built into the rate. Further, MERALCO insured against all risks. MERALCO IS TRYING TO COLLECT FROM ITS CUSTOMERS BECAUSE IT THINKS IT CAN FOOL THEM. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

NAGKAISA has warned that the Wholesale Electricity Supply Market (WESM) does not and cannot work where you have insufficient supply. Given inadequate power supply, there will be no competition to drive down rates because it will be a sellers market. NAGKAISA, as a disinterested party, had already warned the government of this in its meetings with the economic cluster of the Cabinet in April and May 2013. NAGKAISA notes that notwithstanding the notable failure of WESM to bring down electricity prices in Luzon and Visayas, the DOE is currently piloting it in Mindanao where power supply is also inadequate.

NAGKAISA warns that the general public are beginning to realize that the Palace is a defender of MERALCO by its statements that there is “regularity” to the rate increase because it was “in accordance with the law.” NAGKAISA reminds the Palace that it is not for the NAGKAISA or the Palace nor the DOE to determine regularity. That is a function that clearly lies with the ERC. It is the ERC which must determine the course of action to be taken: to set the increase aside or to cushion its impact through rate increases staggered over a longer period of time.

NAGKAISA also reminds the Palace that perhaps something is deadly wrong with the EPIRA Law and that it is time to take a second hard look on how to ensure affordable power and supply that is reliable. We reiterate our call for the creation of a Presidential Task Force to bring down power rates. The Palace should talk to disinterested parties – not the power cartel.

Finally, NAGKAISA reminds the Palace that if in its fight against corruption, it brought down an Ombudsman and a Chief Justice, it can certainly do something about a certain ERC Chairperson named Ducut. Consumer and labor representation in the ERC is long overdue.