The TUCP Party-List, the largest worker’s party in the Philippines criticized the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for recently allowing 94 electric cooperatives to increase their electric charges by 50 to 85 centavos per kilowatt hour which has added to the burdens of consumers particularly in Mindanao.
“The ERC has failed the consuming public. It is unable to fulfill its mandate under the law, and because of that, the consumers continue to suffer from increasing costs of electricity” lamented TUCP Rep. Raymond D.C. Mendoza.
Managers of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives in a huddle with officials of the Distibution Management Corp. (DMC) during a recent meeting in Cagayan de Oro on the power crisis.
The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, created the ERC as quasi-judicial body to promote competition, encourage market development, ensure customer choice and penalize abuse of market power in the electricity industry.
“The rules for rate setting which govern private utilities must not be used for electric cooperatives which are owned by member-consumers,” Mendoza said. “The latter was established to deliver a vital service to the public, while the former is profit-driven. That is a huge difference and therefore the ERC must come-up with a different set of rules – clear and simple- for electric cooperatives.”
TUCP criticized ERC for not allowing managers to consult with member-consumers of electric cooperatives regarding the increased rates. TUCP said ERC only consulted with the general managers of cooperatives.
Under the rules of ERC, a private utility or an electric cooperative can file a petition for rate hike after meeting certain performance criteria such as good management practice and efficient system and operations.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of power hikes on our constituents- our workers and consumers. EPIRA was passed to reduce electric tariffs. But after ten years, prices of power continue to skyrocket. ERC is inutile. EPIRA has not met its promises” Mendoza stressed.
TUCP is contemplating on calling for a congressional inquiry to be conducted by the House Committee on Energy and the Joint Congressional Power Commission for the purpose of reviewing all the crtical issues related to electricity and power privatization to come up with possible amendments for the EPIRA.
“After ten years since the passage of the EPIRA, all the promises of privatization remain empty promises. What we have now is the emergence of private and powerful monopolies and cartels and increasing electricity tariffs which further bleed our workers and consumers” Mendoza emphasized.
TUCP also lambasted the government for being overly dependent on the private sector for delivering vital services like electricity.