Scrap powerless 15-year-old Epira
THROUGH THE past 15 years that the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira)—our country’s framework for our power industry—has been supposedly in force, the Philippine power industry remained in constant crisis. Clearly, Epira is a failure; it has given us no relief from unending power shortage, power generation inefficiencies, unreliable power transmission and distribution, and high reliance on imported or dirty energy sources and technologies; and all the while, private industry players have been making huge profits, even as the country’s electricity rates continue to be among the highest, yet least dependable, in the world.
For example, between 2000 and 2015, Meralco’s effective residential electricity prices per kilowatt hour rose by 77.20 percent, from an effective rate of P4.87 per kWh in 2000 to P8.63 in 2015.
Based on the Demand-Supply Outlook for Energy Security 2015-2030, the Department of Energy raised a yellow alert in 2010, warning of possible power outages in Luzon. Since last year, the Visayas has been in need of baseload energy sources; in Mindanao, the situation is much worse—rotational brownouts have become the new normal.
Resorting to dirty energy sources such as coal did not offer a solution, instead it contributed to an increase in carbon emissions, contributing to climate change while facilitating the accumulation of wealth by a few. Note: of the 77 applications for new coal-fired plants in protected areas, 40 are owned by a single company.
Under the past and outgoing administrations, 15 years of Epira’s restructuring, along the lines of privatization and deregulation, has practically delivered the entire power industry to the hands of the private sector, leaving government powerless to decisively and strategically develop the power industry. In the process, government has lost its ability to protect the electricity consumers or direct the nation’s long-term industrial growth.
We, scientists and engineers in Agham (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), are calling incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to repeal the antipeople Epira and reform the power industry into an industry that prioritizes people’s interests over corporate profits, by crafting a propeople energy policy.
In bringing relief to ordinary consumers, Duterte should impose immediate measures such as scrapping the value-added tax on power, and imposing a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.
As President, Duterte should also take the lead in reclaiming the state’s role as the lead figure in the development of the country’s power industry, by stopping the impending privatization of the state’s remaining power plants (e.g., the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric plants in Mindanao), and instead allocate funds to rehabilitate their facilities.
Duterte’s plan to review coal projects and to push for renewable energy is a beam of light for the Filipino people. We believe that a propeople energy policy is viable in his administration.
—FENY COSICO, secretary general, Agham, firstname.lastname@example.org
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