Press Release
May 19, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today warned the government against capitalizing on the woes of power users to push a hidden political agenda with the owners of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) as the obvious targets.

Pimentel said he will back government's moves to reform the power sector and eliminate any malpractices by Meralco in order to bring down electricity rates but not at the expense of undermining the independence of the ABS-CBN, which has a common owner, the Lopezes.

He said that while current government's efforts to examine Meralco's operations will hopefully redound to the public interest, there is a widespread apprehension that the Lopezes are being threatened with a state takeover or cancellation of franchise to make their broadcast empire less critical or less hostile to the Arroyo administration.

"The threat of a state takeover of Meralco also sends a chilling signal to the business community that the government will not hesitate to go after other business firms that may incur the displeasure of Malacañang," the opposition leader said.

Pimentel said that if the Lopezes who are very powerful could be the object of "government harassment," the more other business groups will be vulnerable to such treatment.

But he cautioned the Arroyo government against pushing ahead with the takeover of Meralco or any private business because it would scare private investors, particularly at a tine when it is trying to attract buyers for the National Power Corporation the privatization of which is very much delayed.

Pimentel said that all these efforts to scrutinize Meralco's operations and correct flaws will be for naught if they will not result in a significant decrease in power rates, especially by ridding the monthly power bills of fraudulent or illegal charges.

For instance, he said in the case of the cost of system's losses which Meralco passes on to its clients, it should be disallowed by repealing a provision in a law which supposedly legalizes such unethical business practice.

"Let them follow the basic business principle that whatever profits your company earns are yours, but whatever losses are incurred also yours to absorb," he said.

Pimentel said it seems unconscionable that the system's losses are subject to the 12 percent Value Added Tax, arguing that it should also be disallowed.

He also took exception to Meralco's reasoning that all the additional charges imposed on consumers, including the cost of the company's own power consumption are legal because they were authorized or approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

"The ERC should see to it that all the components of the power costs that are being charged against Meralco clients are in accordance with law. The ERC should not sleep on its job. Otherwise, its officials can be held liable under the law if they are found to be fouling up on its job as the regulatory agency in the power sector," Pimentel said.

He expressed dismay that ERC chairman Rodolfo Albano was nowhere to be found when the Senate conducted its public hearings on the high power costs in the country despite the implementation of the Epira since 2001.

News Latest News Feed