BY ED LIBRANDA
DILEMMA OF MERALCO CONSUMERS
For heaven's sake, MERALCO, who for over 4 decades have been serving Metro Manila and its adjoining provinces, have been sending its electric bills to the consuming public, indicating the power generation and distribution charges as part of its bill.
Are these charges humane and fair to the Filipino people?
Even the cost of maintaining a pension plan among the MERALCO employees have been charged also to the consumers, making the cost zero to the pockets of the Lopezes, at that time that the pension plan was offered to its employees.
We should remember that most of the power being generated comes from Lopez-owned power company, FirstGen, while MERALCO prior to Manny V. Pangilinan takes over, was the majority-owned by the Lopez family. Just like the old American soap drama ALL IN THE FAMILY..
I have seen and heard all the allegations against Gabby Lopez and his cohorts regarding the opening of offshore offices in Cayman, Budapest, and London, precisely to maintain and hold on to their profits since taxation in these countries all are in favor of the Lopez family.
These revelations were disclosed by Congressman Rodante Marcoleta in a hearing involving the officials of the Energy Regulations Commission (ERC) which governs the activities of all power distributors.
These investigations both from the Senate and the House of Representatives was an offshoot of the billing charges generated by MERALCO where consumers were "shocked" to find out their electric billings jumped by an astronomical high of over 1,000 percent.
Did MERALCO intentionally instruct its meter readers to just make an estimation of the electric charges of its consumers? It's beyond disbelief that this is happening, even during this pandemic crisis.
In spite of ERC receiving more than 47,000 complaints from the public on the "electric shock," all that ERC could do is impose a fine of Php 19M against MERALCO for the billing fiasco last August 20.
In a thesis presented by Ms. Frances Irene Uy to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, it says, "Existing studies show that Manila has one of the most expensive energy prices in Asia on an aggregate level. To supplement available data on Manila's energy prices, this study uncovered the components of an electricity bill from a Meralco electric bill. While the sample electric bill is not representative of Manila's energy cost consumption and cost distribution, it provides the energy cost components of an electric bill in the Philippines as of November 2015. The bill is then categorized into four components, namely, PRODUCTION COST, TRANSMISSION COST, TAXES, AND OTHER CHARGES.
It added, "Singapore is used as a benchmark because it is similar in terms of geographic area, and like Manila, its energy prices are reflective of true costs because it does not provide energy subsidies. Singapore was used because its energy prices are lower than Manila's and it revealed discrepancies between energy cost components and identified what components of Manila's energy cost can be reduced."
Moreover, it says, " A comparison of the components of energy cost among selected cities in Asia revealed that Manila has the third-highest generation cost, highest grid cost, and the third-highest value-added tax imposed on energy."
When will the Filipino people ever be given the chance to feel a sigh of relief from the agony of forever be saddled with one of the most important necessities of everyday life of the Filipino consumers, besides water?