Groups set National Day of Protest against high electricity rates on Nov. 22

via Freedom from Debt Coalition

The Freedom from Debt Coalition, together with various people’s organizations, will be holding a National Day of Protest on November 22, 2012 to register the people’s resistance to the skyrocketing electricity rates that continue to burden the people and the relentless privatization of the power industry under the EPIRA or Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Manjette Lopez, FDC vice president, said that organizations in more than 50 cities and municipalities have expressed their support for the National Day of Action against high electricity rates.

“We expect that more people will join the protest in the coming days,” she added.

According to FDC, there are, at least, 10 reasons why the people should join the National Day of Protest.

First, the people should call for the repeal of the EPIRA. Since its enactment, the EPIRA has not done anything to lower electricity rates. Instead, it has removed the ownership, management and control of government as it allowed the privatization of the government’s power assets to private corporations whose only intention in acquiring such properties is profit.

Second, the National Day of Protest is part of the struggle against the continuing increase of electricity rates. In Luzon, people pay around P11/kWh, a far cry from the pre-EPIRA rates of P5/kWh.

Third, the Senate Bill 3250, which was filed by Sen. Serge Osmeña, to extend the life of the Power Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. for another 10 years. The question is what has the PSALM done since its creation? Before PSALM Corp., the debt of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) stood at US$16, after the creation of the PSALM and subsequent sale of 80% of Napocor’s assets, the present Napocor debt stands at US$17B. With callous gall, PSALM intends to borrow P60B next year for its operations and maturing obligations.

Fourth, PSALM Corp. has been pushing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve its application to pass on the “stranded debt,” amounting to P140 billion, to the consumers. PSALM Corp.’s application would translate to an additional 36 centavos/kWh to be charged against the consumer for 3 years or 3 centavos/kWh payable in the span of 15 years. This additional charge will reflect as the Universal Charge.

Fifth, the open access or electricity market under the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) which is prone to price manipulation. The truth of the matter is that five big players of the power industry can easily dictate the outcome of the market.

Sixth, the recent Supreme Court decision to privatize the Angat Dam hydro-electric power plant (HEPP). The Angat HEPP is now 100% owned by Korea Water Resources Corporation, a foreign company. This goes against our Constitution’s provisions on sovereignty. Angat Dam is the single-most important water source of Metro Manila as it provides 97 percent of the water needs of at least 12 million residents of the country’s capital and irrigates some 31,000 hectares of farms across 20 towns and municipalities in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Seventh, the use of the Performance Based Rate (PBR) methodology to determine rate increases. The ERC has allowed excessive rate increases this year which ranges from 15% to 21% returns for the private utilities. These increases goes beyond the 12% ceiling for returns as stipulated in the Return on Rate Base provided for by the Public Utilities Act.

Eight, the recent updating of the Bill Deposit Charge, which serves as an insurance for Meralco against residents who are not capable to pay for their electricity.

Ninth, in the Visayas, PSALM Corp. is pushing for the privatization of the independent power producer administration (IPPA) supply contract of the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plant (ULGPP). If the privatization of the IPPA pushes through, this may translate into a 100% increase in rates quite similar to what happened in Negros Occidental.

And tenth, the continued push to privatize the Agus-Pulangi hydro plants in Mindanao. Agus-Pulangi continues to be the source of affordable electricity for the Mindanaoans, which roughly provides for more than %50 of the island’s electricity needs. If the privatization of the said plant pushes through, the possibility of rate increases will be inevitable.

Aside from FDC, other organizations that support this nationwide action include: Akbayan, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, BISIG, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Faith-based Congress Against Immoral Debts, Kalayaan, Katarungan.

Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, KMBM, Koalisyong Pabahay ng Pilipinas, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod, KUMPAS, Makabayan-Pilipinas, Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Transportasyon, Partido Lakas ng Masa, Partido ng Manggagawa, Piglas-Kababaihan, and SANLAKAS.