Members of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Women’s Committee set off their celebration of the Women’s Month with a protest action against oppressive power rates in the country this morning as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) resumes their public hearing on the two-year old application for new generation rates filed by the National Power Corporation (NPC) and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).

The hearing was indefinitely suspended for two years after oppositors, including FDC, raised a prejudicial question on the validity of the January 16, 2009 NPC-PSALM application for new generation rates.

Unfortunately before suspending its public hearings, the ERC on February 16, 2009 granted the NPC-PSALM a provisional authority to increase its rates by P0.4682 per kWh in Luzon, P1.1460 per kWh in Visayas, and P0.7147 per kWh in Mindanao.

“We have already been unjustly charged of these provisional rates for two years.  Thus we reiterate our demand to the Commission to recall the provisional authority it granted to NPC-PSALM, rollback the price, and refund the amount illegitimately collected from the consumers,” said Judy Miranda of the FDC-Women’s Committee.

The FDC Women’s Committee denounces the country’s excessive power rates, now the highest in Asia, for imposing undue burden to consumers, especially mothers and women heads of families, who are forced to sacrifice other basic family needs such as health and education to avoid disconnection.

“Electricity is supposed to lessen the load of women who were assigned the double burden of doing household chores by their families in particular and by the capitalist society in general.  But with excessive power rates in the country, Filipino women ended up more oppressed,” protested Mercy Donor of Piglas-Kababaihan.

Up to 20 percent of household income, according to FDC, are spent on power bills.  And much of the components contributing to the high cost of power in the country were the consequence of privatization, onerous contracts, abuse of market power, inefficiency, and even wanton fraud by power players due to weak regulation.

It should be recalled that since April 2009, the FDC had been asking the ERC to recall the provisional authority it granted to NPC-PSALM based on the following grounds:

1. The grant of the 12 percent Return on Rate Base (RORB) is illegal. According to its charter, NPC’s allowable RORB is pegged at 10 percent. Its previous RORB was 8 percent;

2. The ERC cannot impinge, by the exercise of rate regulation, into areas of legislative and management policy;

3. The Provisional Authority was issued despite deficiency in evidence. Instead, the ERC cited figures not found in the records. In fact, the Joint Application is so deficient in substance that it merits outright dismissal;

4. The assumption that sales of electricity will decrease with the privatization of NPC power plants, thus resulting in the increase of rates due to the relatively higher costs for the remaining plants, is not supported by evidence;

5. The proper treatment of revenues from ancillary service, One-Day Power Sales (ODPS), and Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) sales must be deducted from the revenue requirement;

6. The Power Barges 101, 102, 103, 117 and 118 are NPC-IPPs and therefore must not be included in the rate base computation. This is tantamount to double compensation; and,

7. The provisional authority violates due process.

Aside from rates, the FDC Women’s Committee viewed the privatization of essential services such as power and water as “patently anti-women.” (30)

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