DESPITE the chaotic-like picture the government is painting on the day Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her state-of-the-nation address (SONA), militant groups are still pushing through with activities that will highlight the real plight of the masses under her administration.

Groups like Freedom from Debt Coalition and Laban ng Masa will be staging a day of protest on July 20th against the continuous soaring prices of and the imposition of value-added tax on oil and power that harshly affect the lives of the people.

FDC president Ana Maria R. Nemenzo said they will conduct mass actions that will culminate in “lights off” in different areas of Metro Manila.

“Under the administration of Mrs. Arroyo, the cost of power has almost doubled to P9/KWh from P5/KWh before she signed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) into law in 2001,” said Nemenzo, adding that they are issuing a “SONA challenge” to Mrs. Arroyo to lift VAT on oil and power “if she really cares about the plight of the poor.”

FDC said that current power rates in the country is the 2nd highest in Asia; 3rd highest industrial electricity rates and 7th highest household electricity rates in the world.

The group likewise hit Mrs. Arroyo’s policies that led to successive power rates increase:

Continuous payment for the expensive and onerous contracts with independent power producers (IPPs); Full privatization of state-owned National Power Corporation (Napocor); and, Imposition of value-added tax (VAT) on power.

With the imposition of expanded VAT last November 2005 and of additional 2 percent last February 2006, oil price hiked with an additional P3 per liter while power rates jacked up by an additional P1 per kilo-Watt hour.

Laban ng Masa spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza stressed that because of these policies, the price of diesel from P18 per liter in March 2001 soared to almost P37 per liter at present.

Fortaleza also noted that households consuming 100/kWh are now paying more than double in span of three years. Consumers now shell out P900 from only P423 in 2003.

“Ang P8.50 na sardinas noong 2003, mahigit P11 na ngayon! Ang P115 na baboy noon, P140 na ngayon. Ang P5 pasahe noon, P7.50 na ngayon! Lahat ng presyo ng bilihin ay tumaas, kabaligtaran ng lahat ng pangako ni Gloria mula 2001 hanggang 2005,” Fortaleza said.

“Our people have long been suffering from high prices of basic commodities and services. Mrs. Arroyo did nothing to address this. Worse, she instituted policies that aggravated our people’s lowly condition. Just like VAT, she deserves to be removed from our lives,” Fortaleza added.

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