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Militant lawmakers want MERALCO under EO 839
In The Press Posted on November 8th, 2009.
After imposing price controls over fuel prices, two militant lawmakers are now urging the Palace to place electricity distributed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) under Executive Order 839 to avert a looming rate increase. Executive Order 839 was issued in the aftermath of back-to-back storms that ravaged the Philippine main island of Luzon, where a state of calamity remains in effect.
And on Friday, Meralco announced that it would increase electricity rates this month by P0.25 per kilowatt hour (kwh).
On Sunday, Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list and Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela party-list said that the Arroyo government should expand the coverage of price control to also include electricity rates—this time on a national level.
Colmenares said, “The government should extend coverage of price control to cover critical areas like power on a nationwide basis. The times call for a strong pro-people intervention from government that will rein in the abuses and inefficiencies of public utilities and services.”
He blamed Meralco for the looming increase, despite the explanation of the utility that the rate hike was merely “pass through” to customers resulting from higher charges from the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and its independent power producers.
He said that Meralco was “very insensitive” given that people have not yet recovered from the recent calamities and that a depressing Christmas was approaching.
Averting the rate hike
Maza said that the government must immediately act to prevent the rates increase.
“Malacañang should order a price freeze in electricity generation and distribution that should apply to the entire power industry,” she added. “These price increases are the result of privatization policy that should be immediately reversed.”
The government earlier rejected calls by local and foreign business groups to lift Executive Order 839, which rolled back fuel-pump prices in Luzon to their October 15 levels. The businessmen argued that the order would spawn a black market, would hurt consumers in the long run, and would cloud the investment climate.
Subsequently on Friday, Shell Petroleum Corp. filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court of Makati to lift the Executive Order (EO).
Roberto Kanapi, Shell vice president for communications, said, “EO 839 amounts to grave and irreparable injury not just to Shell, but to the oil industry and the country’s overall business climate and its international reputation. We are hopeful that with the filing of this petition, EO 839 will be lifted and we can all move forward and focus on our core priorities of nation building and the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the typhoon.”
House and DOE
Meanwhile, Speaker Prospero Nograles said that the House of Representatives was ready to initiate legislative reforms to get rid of laws governing the power and oil industries that undermine national interests.
“This is our constitutional duty,” Nograles added.
Congress resumes sessions today after a three-week break.
Also today, the Department of Energy (DOE) has called for an industry meeting following the growing unrest among oil companies against the price cap on petroleum products.
The meeting aims to assess the impact of Executive Order 839 on the industry over the past two weeks, according to the department.
Among those invited are the executives and heads of oil firms, liquefied petroleum gas players, transport groups and other industry stakeholders.
The meeting called for by the Energy department follows an appeal from oil companies for Malacañang to lift the Executive Order, which effectively mandated them to sell at a loss in Luzon.
The order does not cover the Visayas and Mindanao.
Oil firms alleged that the price cap, which included areas that were not affected by the typhoons, would have a negative impact on supply especially at a time when international oil prices have been rising.
JOMAR CANLAS AND EUAN PAULO C. AÑONUEVO