FDC Women's Committee takes the lead in the fight against high electricity rates.Stressing that they can no longer bear the burden of increasing price of electricity, members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition – Women’s Committee are taking the lead in the “Power-Off” campaign on October 11 when communities, offices and households in various parts of the country will switch their lights off and hold noise barrage from 7:30 PM to 8:00 PM.

In a press conference, FDC Women’s Committee said that because women bear responsibility for managing household budgets, they are also saddled with the burden of stretching meagre incomes to cover basic household expenses.  High electricity rates means having to slash, even deny many basic needs.  The Philippines now has the highest electricity rates in Asia, higher than Japan.

“I cut down on our budget on food, but I still can’t save enough for family health emergencies.  Paying electric bills eats up a huge portion of our income,” said Osang Palma, Chairperson of MATINIK.

The FDC Women’s Committee points to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) as one of the major causes of women’s increasing burdens.  Instead of providing reliable and affordable electric service, EPIRA has resulted in the opposite.  

Manjette Lopez, FDC Vice President stressed that, “the EPIRA has failed women miserably, as 40 percent of households still do not have electricity to date. Higher electricity rates mean additional work, more debts and no rest for women.”

Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, an FDC Trustee and former president of the Coalition called on consumers, organisations and coalitions to join the more than 50 member-organisations of the FDC Women’s Committee in:

• A Noise Barrage on October 9, 6:00 PM, to be led by about 100 women lined up along E. Rodriguez down G. Araneta Avenue, and
• The Call for a Nationwide Power-off on October 11, to demand a stop to skyrocketing power rates and the immediate review and overhaul of the EPIRA

According to FDC, the Power-Off campaign is gathering more support throughout the country, especially among urban and rural poor communities. Various groups including local government units have already signified their support to the activity. Recently, the Cebu City Counci, the Tacloban City Council and the Negros Occidental Provincial Board have passed their respective resolutions supporting the campaign.

FDC is demanding the following:

• Stop privatization of remaining Napocor assets and contracts. Among these assets are the Angat hydro-electric power plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the Unified Leyte Geothermal Plants in Eastern Visayas, and the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex in Mindanao;

• Suspend all pending hearings on petitions for higher electricity rates before the ERC, including the petitions on Stranded Debt and Stranded Contract Costs filed by Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) and Napocor;

• Remove value-added tax (VAT) on power;

• Revert to the much simpler Return-on-Rate Base (RORB) methodology which allows power firms to collect a maximum 12-percent  profit, instead of the current Performance-Based Rate (PBR) which allows them to earn more than 20 percent;

• Stop collecting and refund to consumers the additional basic generation charge the ERC provisionally granted to PSALM and Napocor in 2009 – P0.4682 /kWh in Luzon, P0.8376/kWh in Visayas, and P0.7147/kWh in Mindanao; and,

• Stop the indexation of or pegging the prices of natural gas and geothermal steam to the international prices of oil and coal, respectively. This indexation makes the prices of electricity generated using natural gas and geothermal steam become higher, not to mention becoming vulnerable to price fluctuations in the world market for oil and coal. ###

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