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SC asked to extend anew TRO on Meralco rate hike

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) was asked yesterday to extend anew the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the rate increase of P4.15 per kilowatt-hour of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for November and December 2013.

In an eight-page urgent motion, petitioners led by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Isagani Zarate said there is a need to extend the TRO that will expire next Tuesday.

They also asked the SC to extend the other TRO enjoining generation companies (gencos) and power suppliers from demanding and collecting generation charges from Meralco, which the latter failed to pay after the court stopped its rate hike.

Petitioners argued that the TROs, if not extended by the SC, “will leave the petitioners, together with millions of Meralco’s captive market, unprotected, as respondents will be free to charge the consumers with P4.15 per kwh rate increase despite prima facie findings of collusion, anti-competitive behavior and abuse of market power during the period questioned and despite the pendency of these consolidated cases.”

“This circumstance will result in grave and irreparable injury to petitioners, as well as millions of Meralco consumers,” they said.

The 60-day TRO was first issued by the high court last December and extended for another 60 days last February, also upon similar plea of petitioners.

Petitioners reiterated their warning that lifting the TRO would immediately lead to inflation as the rate hike would add billions to production cost of manufacturers, which would push the prices of goods and services up.

They also rebutted the warning of Meralco in an oral argument last Feb. 4 about power outages if it fails to collect the generation costs from the customers, which it owes respondents Gencos.

Gencos, on the other hand, continued to threaten Meralco with high penalties, interest rates and legal actions for the delay in the payment of the generation costs, they added.

Other petitioners in the case are Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

The first oral argument was held last Jan. 21 with petitioners Bayan Muna party-list and consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) presenting their case.

The second was held last Feb. 4 with Meralco facing the high court while the third was held last Tuesday with the DOE and Energy Regulatory Commission taking the podium.

The SC has submitted the case for resolution.

TUCP hits DOE scheme

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) yesterday expressed strong opposition to the program that the DOE will implement with Meralco once the “red alert” level indicating a power supply deficit is reached this summer.

The TUCP described the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) as “the poor subsidizing the very rich.’’

Under the ILP, large commercial and industrial corporations, including malls, will run their own generator sets to power up their energy needs for air-conditioning, lighting and other operations as a solution to the possible power shortage this summer.

This will free up power supply that Meralco can use to service the residential households and small enterprises within its franchise area.

The ILP participants running their own generator sets – the most expensive power source – will then pass on their fuel and maintenance costs to Meralco consumers, the TUCP said.

“Why are Meralco residential customers going to be made to pay for power they never consumed in their households?” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP. – With Jess Diaz, Michelle Zoleta

ANTONIO TINIO AND KABATAAN REP ASSOCIATED LABOR UNIONS BAYAN MUNA BAYAN MUNA REPRESENTATIVES NERI COLMENARES AND ISAGANI ZARATE ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION FEB GABRIELA WOMEN MERALCO PETITIONERS POWER
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