Groups vow to block Napocor power hike

By JADE LOPEZ

Reporter

DISTRIBUTION utilities (DUs), industrial consumers, consumer group advocates, and several local government units (LGUs) voiced strong opposition yesterday on the provisional rate increase granted by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to state-owned National Power Corp. (NPC), allowing the latter to increase its generation rate in the Visayas at P1.15 per kilowatt hour (kwh).

During yesterday’s expository and pre-trial hearings for Visayas, intervenors and oppositors voiced their general sentiment that the provisional rate increase of NPC is a “major blow” to the huge expenses incurred by the average Filipino households and the huge companies.

“This will create a major impact on consumers because the additional generation cost of NPC will be passed on to DUs. A P1 increase will be too much,” said Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Secretary General Joselito Vasquez in an interview.

Philexport-Cebu Advocacy and Information Officer Jun Abines also echoed Vasquez’ sentiment that a hike on power costs will not only be a “nail in the coffin” for the already struggling export sector but will in effect discourage foreign direct

investments to the country.

“The Philippines is said to have the second most expensive power cost in Asia, next to Japan. An increase will make us more or less competitive at this time. We hope that they could exhaust all their means to alleviate such increase,” Abines said.

The Student Alliance for

Nationalism and Democracy (STAND), the oldest and biggest student political party in the University of San Carlos, in a manifesto furnished Cebu Gold Star Daily, also voiced complaint over the provisional increase and called on the ERC to immediately nullify its provisional approval of the said rates and to deny final approval of the same.

“To allow the increase at this time of global recession is unconscionable. In the midst of the vanishing income of most Filipino families, every centavo increase in the rate of power deprives every student a centavo off the budget for education,” the group said.

“The increase is not only unconscionable. It is inequitable and anti-poor,” it added.

The Social Action Center (SAC), a non-government organization which has a pastoral care center of over 69 parishes in Negros Occidenta,l also furnished the media with a copy of their opposition letter submitted to ERC.

“SAC manifest vehemently our opposition to the application filed by NPC and PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation)… Any power rate hike at this will trigger much dreaded domino effect of debilitating consequences,” the letter read, which was signed by SAC Director Rev. Fr. Aniceto Buenefe.

Yesterday’s expository hearing was “well attended”, commented ERC Commissioner Rauf Tan, who also served as the presiding officer.

Other intervenors and oppositors include DUs like the Visayan Electric Company, Leyte Electric Cooperative, and Association of Electric Cooperatives 7.

Among the industrial groups present were the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining, Mactan Export Zone, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In addition, the LGUs in attendance include the Provincial Government of Northern Samar, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol.

In her expository presentation on the approval of the revised basic generation charge with prayer for provisional authority, PSALM Vice President for Finance Lourdes Alsona explained the approved hike on generation costs was based on the 2007 audited financial statement of NPC, where she noted that the firm had been incurring huge losses due to the peso appreciation, the rising cost of fuel, high operational costs, among others.

Tan said ERC, NPC and PSALM will be expecting more queries and possible objections regarding the provisional rate increase in today’s evidentiary hearing.

“At the end of the day, we want the consumers to win. We want to assure them that the providers of electricity are viable so that they (consumers) can get the electricity they needed. We need to take a look at the long term effects of this decision to the consumers,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, even when the pre-trial hearing was on going, several members of militant groups Sanlakas and Partido ng Manggagawa rallied infront of Holiday Plaza Hotel, the venue of the trial, to express their strong objection on the power rate hike.

As a result, Tan requested representatives from NPC and PSALM for a diplomatic talk with the militant groups to ensure a peaceful flow of the proceedings.

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