Published: February 5, 2013
Workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a picket in front of Meralco’s office along España Avenue this morning to condemn the power distributor’s recent rate hike and other “profit-making schemes,” condemning the Aquino government for continuing to deregulate power rates.
The labor center condemned the 36-centavo increase per kilowatt-hour implemented by Meralco last Jan. 10, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation’s proposal to impose a 39-centavo per kWh universal charge, as well as Meralco’s proposal to implement a pre-paid payment scheme.
Carrying placards that look like cellular phone screens, the workers said the measures are aimed at securing capitalists’ huge profits and payments for Napocor’s debts, which are allowed by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which workers said should be junked.
“The big capitalists of the power industry keep on coming up with burdens for workers who have been denied a significant wage hike for years and for the poor who are suffering from the lack of employment opportunities. These schemes should be junked,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
KMU said an average Filipino family, which consumes 200 kWh on the average per month, will be paying an additional P72.00 starting this month because of the 36-centavo increase, and would be paying an additional P78.00 if PSALM’s proposal is approved.
“Because of big capitalists’ monopoly over the power industry, power rate hikes are not about electricity produced or plants created. They are about steady growth in profits and debt payments and do not redound to the benefit of consumers,” Soluta said.
“Instead of paying Napocor’s debts according to EPIRA’s mandate, PSALM has incurred more debts. The public should not be made to pay for debts incurred because of bad decisions or deals favoring big capitalists and lending institutions,” he added, criticizing PSALM’s proposal to impose a universal charge.
“Electricity is a basic need that should be provided by the government. It is very different from loads for cellular phones that people can do without for days. The pre-paid kuryente scheme, by refusing electricity supply to those who cannot pay immediately, violates the poor’s right to decent living,” he said.
The labor center called on the Aquino government to junk EPIRA, which it claims is responsible for high power rates in the country, reputedly the second highest in all of Asia.
“The Aquino government makes it appear that wage levels make doing business in the country difficult. The truth is that power costs account for a bigger section of production costs than labor costs, especially for small businessmen,” Soluta said.
“Aquino refuses to junk the EPIRA to protect the interests of the big capitalists in the industry, all of whom are close to him, and those of foreign lending institutions,” he added.