MANILA, Jan. 17, 2014—Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo condemned as “unjust” and “anti-Filipino” the Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) recent power hike in a country marred by poverty and unemployment.
This is in spite of the temporary restraining order (TRO) released by the Supreme Court (SC) last December on the staggered P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate increase which the power giant tried to enforce.
Pabillo, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, added that Filipinos, especially the underprivileged, will suffer from the said increase.
“Kung ang middle class nga mismo minamasama ang pagtaas na iyon, paano na lang kaya ang mga mahihirap? Lalo lang nitong pinahihirap ang mga mahihirap,” Pabillo told CBCP News in a phone interview. (If even the middle class finds such an increase oppressive, how much more so our society’s less fortunate? It will only make the poor poorer.)
An IBON Foundation study shows that the utility giant’s profits have been on the rise.
It says that in the last six years, Meralco has had a 56.3 percent annual increase amid rapid power rate hikes, and that its profits in 2008 escalated by more than six times.
From a reported net income of P2.6 billion that year, the power distributor was at a record-high in 2012 with a profit totaling P16.3 billion, IBON says.
The research group adds that in 2013 Meralco netted more than P17.5 billion, or seven times its 2008 profits.
Also in 2008, households with a monthly consumption of 200 kWh or less paid the power giant a P0.5729 distribution charge.
This amount skyrocketed to P1.2225 in 2012, or a 113.4 percent increase.
Shella Medilo, 30, a Taguig-based office worker from San Pablo City, laments that she finds it harder now to make ends meet even with her above-average monthly salary.
“Sa mga bayarin pa lang, hindi ko napagkakasya ang suweldo ko. Wala nang natitira,” Medilo said. (My earnings are never enough just to pay the bills. I always have no money left for savings.)
Minimum-wage earner Dexter Arisga, 32, complains, “Kalbaryo sa amin iyang lalong pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente.” (The exorbitant price of electricity is weighing us more down.)
IBON stressed that the figures only show the immorality of Meralco’s huge rate increase, and denounces its threat of rotational brownouts should the SC ruling temporarily suspending the rate hike prevails.
Pabillo, however, explained that the distribution company should not take all the blame, given that it is a monopoly.
“Hindi lang basta Meralco ang puwede nating sisihin, gayong buong sistema naman talaga mismo ang may sira,” the bishop said. (We cannot just point the finger at Meralco, when in fact it is the entire system itself that badly needs fixing.)
The bishop underscored the need for the government to promote the common good
“Dapat parating tinitiyak ng ating pamahalaan na napangangalagaan ang kagalingan ng bawat Pilipino… Sa halip, tayo pa ang may pinakamahal na kuryente sa buong Asya,” he said. (Our government must do everything in its capacity to ensure that the welfare of every Filipino is always upheld… Ironically, we are using the most expensive electricity in Asia.) (Raymond A. Sebastián)