Feb 14, 2014

Revoke Meralco Franchise, Pull the Plug on EPIRA

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.

Feb 10, 2014

Oppose Meralco's Threat to Trigger Brownouts if TRO is not Lifted! Revoke Meralco's License and Repeal EPIRA!

Meralco, the electricity monopoly, threatened its 5.3 million consumers with brownouts if the temporary restraining order (TRO) on its scandalous 4.5 peso per kilowatt hour is not lifted.

The threat was made by Meralco lawyer Victor Lazatin during the Supreme Court hearings on the rate hike on Feb. 4.

Consumers will not tolerate this blackmail.

On the pretext of losing vast amounts of money, this monopoly, which made 17 billion pesos in profits in 2013, is trying to derail the investigation of its role in the suspicious series of events that led to the rate increase. Meralco has put the blame on seven of its power suppliers that went offline when the Malampaya natural gas plant underwent maintenance from Nov. 11 to Dec. 10, 2013, allegedly forcing Meralco to go to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for its power deficit. But documents submitted to the Supreme Court showed that it was Meralco’s order to a power supplier--Therma Mobile—that it controls to bid at the maximum allowable price of 62 pesos per kilowatt hour no less than 25 times during that period that was responsible for the skyhigh clearing price at WESM.

Meralco gamed the market, to the detriment of its consumers whom it is obligated to supply at the least possible cost. Moreover, Meralco would not have resorted to buying at WESM’s inflated prices had it made provisions for reserve power from its suppliers in the event of a foreseeable event like the Malampaya shutdown. As President Aquino himself has said, ““There is periodic maintenance [of Malampaya] required. That’s a foreseeable event. If you know what producers of fuel will not be able to produce, then you have to find a substitute. So preparation should have been made for foreseeable events.”

But the problem goes beyond Meralco. It goes beyond the Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the classic example of a regulator that is in the pocket of the regulated. It goes beyond the Department of Energy, which has shown itself to be completely incompetent in planning for the energy needs of the country. The main source of the problem lies in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which has placed power generation, transmission, and distribution completely in the hands of the private sector.

Privatization has resulted in monopoly control, inefficient power delivery, and sky-high prices, not in more efficiency, less concentration, and lower prices. Meralco, whose profits have risen over 100 per cent since EPIRA went into effect in 2001, is a monstrous example of EPIRA’s failure.

13 years of exploiting consumers is enough! We demand the revocation of Meralco’s license and the repeal of EPIRA.

Feb 3, 2014

Social protection, unemployment insurance for Filipinos – ILO, TUCP Partylist

DAVAO City – In a public forum dubbed “Sustainable and Dignified Living for All” organized by the Trade Union Congress Party (TUCP Party List) at ALU Hotel in Davao City today, Mr. Jeff Lawrence Johnson, the country Director for the Philippines of the International Labor Organization (ILO) stressed the importance of having protection of workers against continuing global economic crisis resulting in high global unemployment and increasing threats to lives and livelihoods posed by climate change.

Mr. Johnson said that unemployment is a problem, but the real problem now especially in the Philippines is vulnerable employment.

As of 2013, unemployment rate in the Philippines stood at seven percent (7%) while the gross domestic product (GDP) remained high at around seven percent (7%).

“It is good news that the Philippines still has strong economic growth, but how is this translated to the people. The real challenge for the Philippines is how to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth,” added ILO’s Johnson.

Forty percent (40%) of those with employment are in vulnerable jobs – lowly paid, family workers are unpaid, without security of tenure. ‘The income gap has to be addressed,” remarked Mr. Johnson.

“Social protection such as unemployment insurance will reduce the problems some of the major problems currently faced by the government. If Vietnam can implement unemployment insurance, I see there is no reason the Philippines can’t do it. The challenge for the Congress of the Philippines is how to pass a legislation on unemployment insurance,” said the ILO-Philippines country director.

Responding to Mr. Johnson and speaking before the media and leaders of labor federations in Mindanao, Visayas and Mindanao, TUCP Party –List Raymond Democrito Mendoza committed to file a bill that will mandate guaranteeing unemployment insurance to everyone.

The solon said that the House bill on unemployment insurance that he will file will be in addition to the bill that he co-authors which promotes the welfare of workers in the informal sector – the Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy (MCWIE). The The Committee on Labor and Employment of the House of Representatives conducted its first hearing on the bill on January 22.

In the recently concluded General Assembly of TUCP-Partylist in Davao City on February 3, the Party highlighted the problems of poverty, inequality, and the increasing number of those in precarious jobs in the country.

TheTUCP Partylist Agenda in the next two years will be geared towards realization of quality well-being and life of dignity for everyone. This includes advocacies that promote the interest and welfare of workers, consumers, and other basic sectors of the society on urgent issues such as security of tenure and jobs, stopping contractualization of workers, and pushing for living wage. The Party list shall also pursue steps in the next two years towards expansion and institutionalization of social protection programs which include job guarantee, unemployment insurance, and universal access to social services such as healthcare, water, and electricity.