12 October 2011
– Tens of thousands of Filipino households in 22 cities and provinces in Metro Manila and parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao switched off lights and staged noise barrages to demand lower skyrocketing electricity rates, according to the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) which led the protest action.
Ricardo B. Reyes, FDC national president, said the protests Tuesday night can further snowball into larger waves of nationwide protests. He urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to intervene in the country’s high power rates, now the highest in Asia and the fifth highest in the world.
“The people have spoken through the Power-Off Campaign. Enough of these unbearable power rates in our country. The ball is now in the hands of President Aquino,” stressed Reyes.
“We ask the President to exercise leadership and uphold the people’s interests by ordering the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) to immediately withdraw all their rates application before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), including the P0.40/kWh increase for the stranded debt and stranded contract costs under the universal charge,” said Reyes.
FDC also urged President Aquino to order PSALM to stop the sale of remaining Napocor assets and contracts. Among these assets – also sources of lower-priced energy – are the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complexes in Mindanao, the Unified Leyte Geothermal Plants in Eastern Visayas, and the Angat hydro-electric power plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
FDC, one of the biggest and oldest multisectoral organizations in the country advocating people-centered development, also urged President Aquino to order the Department of Energy to revert to the Return-on-Rate Base (RORB), a simpler method than the Performance-Based Rate (PBR) methodology “which only results in higher power rates.”
Manjette Lopez, FDC vice president said: “President Aquino should also order the DOE to conduct a meaningful and substantial new round of review and renegotiations of contracts with IPPs, and immediately rescind onerous ones.”
“Here, we laud the House Committee on Energy for heeding the people’s demand by approving a resolution to review and renegotiate IPP contracts last Tuesday,” added Lopez.
The group likewise wants the President to instruct the DOE to discard the practice of indexation, or pegging the prices of natural gas and geothermal steam to the international prices of oil and coal, respectively. This hikes the prices of electricity generated from natural gas and geothermal steam, and leaves the country vulnerable to price fluctuations in the world market for oil and coal, according to FDC.
President Aquino can also exercise the mandate and powers of his office to seek congressional action for the removal of the VAT on power and for a review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).Power Off
Early Tuesday morning, FDC member organizations massed up at the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City to drum up the Power Off campaign. Participating groups include Sanlakas, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), Piglas Kababaihan.
Picket protests were also held in Meralco branches in Zapote, Caloocan, in Concepcion, Malabon, and in Tutuban, Manila.
At noon, KPD and urban poor group Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML) trooped to the House of Representatives in Quezon City reiterating FDC’s call for the review of EPIRA and the removal of the VAT on power.
Thousands of residents in different cities of Metro Manila staged candle-lighting and torch parades prior to the 7:30 pm lights out and noise barrage. Among the participating areas were Life Homes Subdivision, Flexihomes, and Napico in Barangay Manggahan in Pasig City; Barangays Central, Botocan and North Triangle in Quezon City; Camarin-D in Caloocan City; Barangay 377 in Manila City; and, Mandaluyong City. Even the struggling members of Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) joined the Power-Off campaign in Pasay City.
In Bulacan, residents of Malolos, Bocaue, Meycauayan and San Jose Del Monte also switched off their lights in support of the campaign.
In Visayas, communities across several towns and provinces joined the Power Off activity. These were Tacloban City in Leyte, cities of Cebu, Carcar, Talisay, Toledo Lapu-lapu and Mandaue in Cebu, Iloilo City, and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.
Participating areas in Mindanao include Bukidnon, Iligan City in Lanao Del Sur, Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental, Pagadian City in Zamboanga Del Sur, Marbel and Tacurong in South Cotabato and Davao City.
Earlier, City Councils of Tacloban and Cebu and the Provincial Board of Negros Occidental have passed their respective resolutions supporting the campaign.-30-