Press Release
January 18, 2021

Senator urges review of "surcharges" being passed on to consumers

"May kaunting liwanag tayong nasilayan."

This according to Senator Risa Hontiveros, as she welcomed the announcement of power distributor giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) that it will implement a relaxed "case-to-case basis" policy for disconnecting consumers unable to pay their bills.

Hontiveros made the statement as MERALCO responded to her earlier appeal for leniency and flexibility for delinquent MERALCO consumers. MERALCO also committed to "exhausting all means to avoid disconnection of its consumers."

"Nagtitiwala akong patuloy na magbibigay ng konsiderasyon ang Meralco, lalo na sa mga kababayan nating hirap makabayad ng kuryente," she said.

While this is a laudable move, the senator still lamented that the "real problem" is the high price of electricity in the country.

"Our rates are the second highest in Asia. Kahit na updated sa pagbabayad ang majority ng kanilang consumers, may mga nangutang at namaluktot sa kapos na kumot para makabayad at hindi maputulan ng kuryente," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said the government, particularly the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), must address the potentially onerous surcharges passed on to consumers, which drive up monthly power costs.

"There must be a comprehensive review of these surcharges being shouldered by consumers. One of these is the controversial 15% weighted average cost of capital (wacc) na binigay ng ERC para sa State Grid of China at mga local partners nito sa National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP). Halos doble ito sa 8% average global standard in terms of transmission rate," she explained.

Hontiveros also believes that power suppliers and NGCP must share the burden of utmost sacrifice especially when the economy is gearing towards recovery. "Perhaps our power firms should share a bigger part of the burden since they continue to enjoy higher return on investment and remain profitable even during the pandemic," she added.

Hontiveros explained that in 2019 alone, the combined revenue of power generation suppliers reached almost P360B and is expected to continuously increase until 2040. She noted that in 2017, the total earnings of power generation, transmission and distribution suppliers reached at least P897B. She furthered that NGCP was also able to divide among its shareholders a total of P188B in corporate dividends in just 10 years of their 25-year contract of running the country's power transmission system.

"Bukod sa latay ng mataas na singil sa kuryente, hinahambalos din ng unemployment at mataas na bilihin ang mga konsyumer," Hontiveros stressed.

"Hindi patas na lulubog sa utang ang ordinaryong konsyumer na nagpupursigeng maitawid ang mga bayarin. Sana ay magtulungan ang pamahalaan at ang buong energy sector para mas maging abot-kaya ang singil sa kuryente. Sa panahong ito, unahin natin ang kapakanan ng Pamilyang Pilipino," she concluded.

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