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Where is the good news?

12:21 AM June 17, 2014

Since Labor Day of 2012, organized workers under the Nagkaisa coalition have been asking the executive branch of the government to come up with a road map, a clear and doable plan, to bring down the country’s unreasonable power rates.

We repeated the same plea during our dialogue with President Aquino on April 19, 2014. During that dialogue, we called his attention to what we see as a national emergency on the issue of power so that he could mobilize all available resources of the state, including the power provided by law to build our generating capacity, to secure the growing power supply requirements of the country, and to effectively bring down rates.

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Mr. President, you calmed our fears of an energy emergency and you even indicated there might be good news on this issue in the forthcoming week. A couple of weeks have passed since then.

Perhaps it’s about time to look for what is obviously missing: Where is the good news, Mr. President?

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What we are seeing instead is a power industry in a state of flux, with the rates and diminishing supply compounding the country’s other economic problems, some of which are:

• A week after that dialogue, the energy department declared a “yellow alert” indicating a deteriorating supply problem caused not just by El Niño but also by the breakdown of several power plants, especially old ones. The power crisis that was then limited only to Mindanao has now crept into the Visayas and Luzon grids as only one new plant has come online in Luzon since the passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act in 2001.

• The country’s economic growth slowed down during the first quarter. Again, the National Economic and Development Authority attributed the problem to Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” We maintain, however, that high rates and thinning power supply contributed to this problem by imposing prohibitive costs on business as well as inflationary pressures on consumers. Reports have come out showing that headline inflation surged last month (from 4.1 percent in April to 4.5 percent in May) and this was mainly driven by rising food and energy prices.

• The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has indicated in its recent report/study that power and infrastructure problems remain the country’s top concerns to address.

Just recently the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry called upon the President to work on achieving power supply security and competitive power rates to allow the country to realize inclusive growth and industrialization.

President Aquino and labor are supposed to sit down again one month after our last dialogue to discuss pending issues that we have brought to his attention. But without the good news on power, are there other good things to talk about?

—WILSON FORTALEZA,

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coconvenor, Nagkaisa

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TAGS: Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Energy, labor, nation, news
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