No one to punish for electricity mess?

Published by rudy Date posted on March 21, 2014

We can never stress it enough. Tens of thousands of families lost everything when history’s fiercest Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck the Visayas last Nov. Among the worst displaced were schoolchildren, traumatized by the loss of kin, playmates, and school provisions.

The government, with private firms and NGOs, is still rebuilding and reequipping schoolhouses, reprinting and redistributing textbooks. The schoolchildren too need restoration from misery to normalcy.

There’s a way to bring back their hopeful smiles. And indefatigable broadcaster-social worker Ted Failon (ABS-CBN DZMM Teleradyo) proposes how. Outfit each one, in time for the June school reopening, with:

• two sets of school wear, pants and shirts for boys, skirts and blouses for girls;

• three pairs of socks, briefs/panties), and two undershirts (sando);

• a pair of shoes (durable synthetic);

• a schoolbag with nametag; and

• complete school supplies (pencils, pad paper, ruler, etc.).

Ted calculates a cost of P1,200 per schoolchild. Focusing on Leyte, he is raising P5 million for: 2,062 pupils of the San Fernando Central-2 Elementary School, Tacloban City; 381 in Tanauan Central-2 Elementary School, Tanauan; 563 in San Roque Elementary School, Tanauan; 161 in Cansibuy Elementary School, Burauen; 345 in San Joaquin Central Elementary School, Palo; and 634 in Dagami North Central School, Dagami. Total: 4,156, and that’s just for starters.

The outfits are personalized, so Ted’s team is flying to Leyte this weekend to take the schoolchildren’s measurements.

Donations are most welcome. Send checks to “Sagip Kapamilya,” and on the back specify “for Failon Ngayon back-to-school project”: Banco de Oro account number 3930114199.

For cash donations and inquiries, email, or call (02) 4106727.

Organizations and individuals can replicate Ted’s charity in other schools damaged by Haiyan/Yolanda: in Samar, Panay, Cebu, Bohol, and Palawan. It could be done in other disaster-stricken areas too.

There can be an unintended effect: mild economic stir-up, from the manufacture, employment, and transport of school wear and supplies ­— all springing from charity.

* * *

Electricity producers overcharged last Nov., thus the price spike that Luzon distributors passed on to consumers in Dec.-Mar. The Energy Regulatory Commission has so ruled, and is commanding the producers to re-calculate the fair generation rate. That way, Meralco and other distributors can refund the customers.

All’s well that ends well?

That’s how the government wants to leave it. But should it?

Several questions are left hanging. Like, should not the power producers be punished for opportunism and profiteering? Too, why did the ERC denounce the overcharging only now, after consumers took it to court? And, why did not the Dept. of Energy avert the overcharging?

Consumers deserve not only refund but also justice — punitive and exemplary. There are penalties for market buccaneers and economic saboteurs. Fines and prison terms will scare others from aping them.

The ERC earlier had ignored Meralco’s shouts of price surges. It even approved last Nov. the rates that Luzon distributors were to pass on from the producers to consumers — in three shock-cushioning installments in Dec., Feb. and Mar. Only after the consumers growled did the ERC scrutinize the rates — which was its duty from the start. Now, in sham heroism, it is ordering a generation rate re-computation.

In truth, re-computing wasn’t the ERC’s idea, but Meralco’s. It heard of “generation price rerun” only when the Meralco petitioned for it in Jan. Now the ERC is putting on Meralco the burden of meticulously rebilling each customer the fair pass-on price — including the VAT that the government already exacted but whose refund will be the distributors’ worry. The ERC seems to forget that Meralco and most other distributors are publicly listed, thus partly owned by thousands of small shareholders.

Administration politicos want the head only of ERC chairwoman Zenaida Ducut, a spaced-out appointee of the hated Arroyo tenure. But ERC decisions — and mistakes — are collegial. Equally liable thus for the ERC’s lapse in price regulating are the three other commissioners — appointees all of the present admin.

The ERC blames the unjust pricing on the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), where power producers and distributors trade like in a stock market. The Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) runs the WESM’s hourly bidding of electricity rates. While the PEMC is private, its chairman is none other than Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla. The position is reserved for the energy czar precisely so market prices can be monitored for the consumers’ sake.

Clearly Petilla goofed. But the ERC falters to say so; Malacañang’s men in the regulatory body would not rebuke a fellow-appointee. Petilla, meanwhile, refuses to resign for ineptness, as Sen. Serge Osmeña urges him. With the ERC abetting Petilla, and the latter in turn in the company of profiteering power producers, no wonder nobody is being penalized for the price mess. –Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star)

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