26 April 2016

 

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) expresses its dismay during the last Presidential debate hosted by ABS CBN held in Pangasinan last April 24, 2016. All the candidates proved disappointing and offered no solution to the current power crisis.

None of the candidates have a clear solution or platform on sustainable energy, worse presidential candidate Mar Roxas from the Liberal Party, reiterated the use of “ Clean coal” as the solution to the power crisis in the country. FDC Secretary General Sammy Gamboa reminded Mr. Roxas that clean coal is a dirty lie.

Clean energy advocates are not surprised however that candidates will continue to implement neoliberal policies that favors privatization and the use of dirty and harmful sources of energy such as coal. Their biggest financial backers from the industry always ensure that their interests are paramount over the interests of the poor majority of the population.

Last week FDC led a protest action before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to denounce the chronic power rate hikes by the energy monopoly. The power rate hike is a result of an 8-centavo increase in Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) effective in April and the increase in “ancillary costs” nationwide with the Power Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation’s (PSALM) "differential ancillary service charge" of P6.5B for Luzon, P1.9B for Visayas and P1.6B for Mindanao which it will start recovering in May. The Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) is the government’s incentive to power investors to entice them to invest in renewable energy and guarantee a return of their investments. This is a burden passed on to the consumers.

Independent Senatorial candidate and former FDC president Walden Bello said thatsince the bill that became EPIRA was deliberated on the Congress floor, FDC has strongly opposed it. “FDC has warned Congress and our people again and again, year after year, that privatization cannot deliver the promises of the Electric Power Industry Reform ACT( EPIRA). On the contrary, EPIRA would drive the power industry down to perennial crisis. Now, fifteen (16) years after its enactment, EPIRA is one big broken promise.”

Another lie is that of free and fair competition, the power industry fell into the hands of a monopsony (virtual cartel) of the Big 3: First Gen of the Lopez group, Aboitiz Power and San Miguel Power for power generation, a monopoly of MERALCO in power distribution and the control by a private company, NGCP or the National Grid Corp. of the Phils., of the transmission sector which is owned by Henry Sy and the Chinese government.

FDC challenged consumers to direct their disappointment towards the electoral ballot. Further, FDC challenges Senatorial candidates like former DOE secretary Jericho Petilla, and Joint Congressional Power Commission ( JCPC) chairman Senator Serge Osmena to declare that EPIRA is a sham that needs to be repealed. Their credibility is on the line considering both miserably failed to solve the problem of high electricity rates during their terms. From P5.00 per kilo/watt hour before the passage of EPIRA to P16.00 per kilo/ watt hour as current rate.

Finally FDC calls for the steady and sure transition to sustainable energy thru:
(1) breaking the private monopolistic/monopsonistic hold of the big private corporations on the power generation, transmission and distribution industry brought about by EPIRA;
(2) bringing back State planning in building and developing the power industry;
(3) restoring the role of the State as a major player in both generation and distribution sectors and renationalizing the management and operation of the transmission sector; and
(4) promotion of democratic and efficient electric cooperatives as a social partner of the State in developing the power industry.

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