Energy consumers ask: Where is the love?
February is celebrated as the Love Month. But for millions of Filipinos struggling to make ends meet in this already year-long COVID-19 pandemic, love is hardly felt.
Every day, we are faced with the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic, further worsened by the rise in commodity prices—including that which is very crucial to our lives: electricity.
Just last month, Meralco announced a price hike of P0.27 per kilowatt-hour. This meant that a household consuming 200 kWh would be charged an additional P55 in their electricity bill. In the first week of February, consumers flocked to several Meralco offices to protest this price hike and called out the company for its abusive practices—for not complying with the promised extension of its “nondisconnection policy” and continuing to cut the service of some customers for nonpayment.
Filipino consumers deserve better. The Philippines has the second highest electricity cost in Southeast Asia, and amid the ongoing economic crisis and the high cost of household utilities, service from these energy companies should never be inefficient, expensive, or predatory.
The energy industry has been heartless all these years, sucking us dry with high rates and sneaky charges. Particularly at this time when surviving the global pandemic is the topmost priority, it is crucial for the government to put into heart the importance of implementing existing laws and policies that are consumer-centered.
Kuryente.org urges energy suppliers to show our consumers some love by bringing the cost of electricity down and providing the service they deserve. At the current rate of P10 per kWh, average earners would not be able to make both ends meet, given the P537 minimum wage in Metro Manila and much lower wages in the rest of the country.
While the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Republic Act No. 9136 enforces open competition among producers and distributors in the country, this law does not sufficiently lower the prices of electricity in the Philippines. Existing regulation guidelines must be improved and strengthened, focusing on ways to significantly lower electricity fees so that these will not significantly compete with other basic family needs.
A Social Weather Stations survey conducted in December 2020 asserts that 91 percent of Filipinos are hopeful for the new year. We at Kuryente.org believe that this optimism should be sustained and maximized by allowing consumers to be a crucial part of decision-making processes in the energy sector. During this time when jobs are still scarce and millions of Filipinos are experiencing the excruciating impacts of the pandemic, cheaper electricity can allow more Filipinos the chance for a better year, indeed.
NIC SATUR JR.
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