Consumer Protection Group Hits Protector of Big Businesses

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By William Dipasupil

THE economy will fall not because President Aquino is a poor manager but because of some politicians who are protecting the interests of big businesses, according to a consumer protection group. The Movement Against Business Abuses (MBA), an alliance of  consumer protection advocates, was reacting to an earlier statement by Sen. Serge Osmeña blaming the President and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on the country’s power woes. “If there’s somebody that should be blamed for the country’s problem on electricity, it is Senator Serge Osmeña III, who obviously is protecting the rape of the economy by big businesses,” the group said. Osmeña, they said, has been remiss in his duty as a lawmaker in helping  address the country’s problem on thinning power reserves, much more as  chairman of the Senate energy committee. “He failed to recommend amendments to EPIRA which is the primary cause of our power problems,” MBA added. Republic Act No.9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001squarely puts the burden of protecting the interest of consumers and ensuring competitiveness in a deregulated industry on the shoulders of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The ERC was created to promote and protect long-term consumer interest in terms of quality, reliability and reasonable pricing of a sustainable supply of electricity. The group pointed out that the recent order by the ERC to void spot market prices of electricity generated and sold to Meralco last December and January were clear indications that the government is aware of the real purpose of regulatory functions. The Movement said that it is about time that the real cost or electricity and how it is computed  should be made public, which could be done by amending certain provisions of the EPIRA law. As chair of the Senate energy committee, they said, Osmeña may introduce the amendments so that the power generators and distributors would be compelled to make public how they arrived at on the cost of electricity being charged to the consumers. “Investors in the energy sector had for decades held hostage the government and consequently the users of electricity by threats of brownouts every time their greed driven profits are threatened,” the MBA spokesman, lawyer Rey Cardeno, said. Cardeno pointed out that the consumers had always been on the losing end and ended up paying more every time Meralco pushed for another round of power rate increase before the ERC. “We were convinced, then, that the ERC was in the pockets of Meralco,” he said, adding that “unless this is a trick, and ERC and Meralco has perfected several tricks against consumers, we are looking forward to a new directions at the ERC and the Department of Energy.” But now, he said, that the ERC is being true to its functions by ordering a review and recalculate the cost power that Meralco wants to pass on to consumers, the national leadership, including Osmeña, should support the peoples’ demand for transparency on the actual cost of electricity.

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