Press Release
March 1, 2010

ENRILE PUSHES FOR REFORMS ON CONSUMER PROTECTION

Senate President Enrile expressed disgust and challenged his detractors to put forward meaningful reforms on consumer protection, and not to mislead the public on his advocacies that seek to lower power rates and improve services by telecommunication companies. THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO CRITICS WHO ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OUT OF ENRILE'S BATTLE CRY "PROBLEMA MO, SAGOT KO!"

As a backgrounder, it was during the 11th Congress that the proposed Electric Power Industry Reform (EPIRA) bill was being deliberated in the Senate.

"I took it upon myself as a matter of duty to study and understand the elaborate and technical structure and aspects of the industry- from generation, transmission, and distribution to the end-users of electricity. I had to know the various factors which contributed to the high cost of electricity. These included inefficiencies in the system, high systems losses, contracted debts, miscalculations in the demand for future capacities, high fuel costs, regulatory inadequacies, lapses and outright neglect- all resulting in such a heavy burden on the consumers." Senate President Enrile narrated.

"With full conviction that the EPIRA's promised benefit of ensuring the quality and reliability of the supply of electricity that would translate to lower consumption costs could not be achieved, I cast the lone negative vote for the bill in 2001 when it was passed into law. It was not that I did not believe in the ideas of restructuring the industry, encouraging competition, privatization and effective regulation. My NO vote was borne of the belief that the EPIRA lacked the needed safeguards against market abuse and the lack of effective measures to transparently review the power contracts which spawned the burdensome Purchased Power Agreement." Enrile added.

During his absence in the Senate in the 12th Congress, Senate President Enrile continued his advocacy for genuine reforms in the power industry. Meanwhile, the cost of electricity continued to soar. The unbundling of charges led to even more confusion and questions from consumers as they saw in their bills the components of the charges being imposed on them. They were further confused and outraged over the lack of transparency in arriving at adjustments in the increasing rates. While the consumers scored a couple of victories in their court battles for refund as well as the requirement for public hearing in cases involving rate increases, they still felt largely helpless against the onslaught of rising power costs.

"It was against this backdrop that I made a bid to return to the Senate in 2004 with my main campaign theme of pursuing my advocacy for consumer reform.

"I must confess to you that my campaign tag line "PROBLEMA MO SAGOT KO" had at times caused me problems because people would ask me how come they are still paying high electricity costs despite my election to the Senate. I would get criticisms from some people even from the media, including some ribbing from my friends and supporters who thought I had forgotten my campaign promise. It is quite difficult to explain to the public that my promise was PROBLEMA MO SAGOT KOSA SENADO and that I have to address their concerns through legislation-a process which grinds ever so slowly." Enrile stated.

The very first bill Senate President Enrile filed upon his return to the Senate during the Thirteenth Congress was the revision of the EPIRA, and shortly after, the Anti-Trust bill, and other legislative measures that he firmly believes would ease the financial burden of the consuming public. At present, SP Enrile is pushing for reforms in the regulatory structure of the National Telecommunications Commission in order to transform it into a politically-independent and fiscally autonomous body to insulate it from political pressure.

"Smart and Globe have now been granted a TRO by the Court of Appeals on the per pulse billing scheme that I am espousing, but it will not stop there. The NTC has filed for an appeal and I also intend to file for a motion for intervention in order to provide our consumers the right to affordable voice call rates" Enrile lamented.

Sadly, the bill amending the EPIRA was not acted upon by the Lower House. Worse, there was no quorum during the last day of session to act on the approval of the NTC Reorganization bill.

"My slogan now in my campaign is 'Gusto ko, happy ka,' because that synthesizes everything that the government represents, and when you want to make a society happy, you have to start somewhere. The people must be provided with ample food, ample jobs, ample education, ample health services." Enrile said, adding "They must feel secure in their homes, in their workplace and in everything that they do. Their fruits of labor, they must be able to keep without feeling that they will be robbed by businessmen, by telephone companies, by the electric power producers, by the government itself that imposes unreasonable taxes."

Re-electionist Pwersa ng Masa senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile expressed confidence that his party will get the needed votes despite disinformation efforts by some sectors in order to discredit his campaign slogan " GUSTO KO, HAPPY KA".

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