QUEZON CITY – Thousands of electricity consumers from 55 cities and municipalities from 15 provinces and 10 regions are expected to stage a multi-form protest on November 22, dubbed as "National Day of Action against Epira, high electricity rates and privatization of the power industry."
In a press conference here, various groups, led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition, said that the whole-day protest will focus on issues that affect the ordinary electricity consumers.
"Sobra na ang pagtitiis ng mga konsyumer sa mataas na singil sa kuryente na dulot ng Epira. Sobra na ang kuryentiis ng mga mamamayan. Panahon para ito labanan at hamunin ang mga kinauukulan na gumawa ng hakbang para tugunan ang isa sa pangunahing problema ng bawat simpleng Pilipino," said Manjette Lopez, FDC vice president.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said: "After 10 years of Epira, we have higher electricity prices, worse power delivery, and a real power crisis. Epira has shown itself to be a very deficient instrument from the point of view of achieving our national power and energy goals. It's time to repeal it."
Ricardo Reyes, FDC president, said that consumers will also stage "Occupy Meralco" in various branches, including the main office, of the distribution company in the National Capital Region at exactly 10:00 AM on Thursday.
Aside from "Occupy Meralco," the groups encouraged consumers to hold different forms of protests in their respective communities. Among the forms of protest they proposed include power-off, noise barrage, march, torch parade, human chain, picket, shadow play, flying lanterns, caravan, mobile propaganda team (MPT) and flash mob, among others. The groups also launched an online petition urging the President and the legislative branch to take action on the issues they are raising.
Below are the issues that the groups are raising:
• The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) that favors the corporations than the consumers. This framework privatizes super profits but socializes costs;
• The skyrocketing electricity rates that continue to burden the people;
• The privatization of Angat hydro-electric power plant (HEPP) in Bulacan, supply contract of Unified Leyte Geothermal power plant (ULGPP) in Eastern Visayas, and Agus-Pulangi hydro-complexes in Mindanao;
• The Senate Bill 3250, which was filed by Sen. Serge Osmeña, to extend the life of the Power Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. for another 10 years;
• The open access or electricity market under the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) which is prone to price manipulation. In Mindanao, the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) is about to be implemented and the government has admitted that it will cause an increase by P0.03-P0.72 depending on what energy source is sold to the interim market. At present, the rate is at P2.94 per kilowatt-hour in the island;
• The proposed additional charges, such as the Bill Deposit and Universal Charge; and,
• The use of the Performance Based Rate (PBR) methodology to determine rate increases. The ERC has allowed excessive rate increases this year which ranges from 15% to 21% returns for the private utilities. These increases goes beyond the 12% ceiling for returns as stipulated in the Return on Rate Base provided for by the Public Utilities Act.
For his part, Josua Mata, a convenor of NAGKAISA, a network of labor organizations, explained the impact of high cost of electricity on workers and business. He said that locators in Mactan export processing zone (MEPZ) are threatening to pull out should their concerns about the high cost of electricity are not properly addressed.
"This threatens the jobs of 250,000 workers. This makes it imperative for the government to show us a roadmap on how to achieve affordable electricity and energy security," said Mata, also the secretary-general of Alliance of Progressive Labor.
Aside from FDC, other speakers who expressed support to the November 22 National Day of Action were Leody De Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Rene Dela Cruz of Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Jofti Villena of Faith-based Congress against Immoral Debts (FCAID), James Miraflor of Sanlakas and Gloria Santos of FDC Women's Committee.