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DOE, Senate to look into “collusion” in power rate hike

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A household that consumes 200 kWh a month will pay an additional P830.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and Senate will look into an alleged “collusion” among power plants that shutdown almost simultaneously last month which created artificial power shortage and prompted the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to hike its power rate to P4.15 per kilowatt hour, its highest ever.

The suspicion of collusion was sparked after the power plants were shut down and left Meralco unprepared to buy more expensive supply from the spot market.

Now, a household that consumes 200 kWh a month will pay an additional P830.

Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos said during the hearing of the House committee on energy Meralco was only supposed to charge consumers an additional P1.58 per kWh.

And came in the simultaneous shutdown of power plants, which were supposed to take up the cudgels for the Malampaya shutdown and Meralco had to “spike” the power rate to P4.15 kWh.

“That’s why we came up with a study, an observation of our own. There were unplanned outages in several plants, like Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, Pagbilao, Masinloc, Gen Power, Calaca and Ilijan,” Aguilos said.

ERC chief not present

Legislators were irked by the absence of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chair Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, who is also charged in the pork barrel scam, during the House committee hearing.

Energy committee chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said Ducut wasn’t able to explain her absence of the House probe on the power rate hike which came a day after the ERC approved Meralco’s power rate hike.

Ducut was represented by ERC Commissioner Josefina Patricia M. Asirit and ERC Executive Director Francis Juan during the meeting.

Lawmakers were asking Ducut to take a leave of absence after she was included in the graft and malversation charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Lights off on Friday the 13th

Different sectors, meanwhile, will hold a “lights off” gathering on Friday to protest the power rake hike of Meralco.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the 30-minute “lights off” is a simple way of telling Meralco and government they oppose the all-time power rate hike even though the payment will be installment for three months.

The protest will start at 6 p.m. and ends at 6:30 on Friday.

At the same time, National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform (Nasecore) already filed a petition opposing the power hike at the Supreme Court.

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