Iloilo City, a Central Philippine city, boasts of its unique moniker to have the world’s costliest power rate, at P14 per kilowatt-hour. Contrast that to the three electric cooperatives, the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) I, II and III, that charge P3 to 4 lower despite their lesser incomes and bigger area to maintain. Patay Power has only 8,000 hectares to cover, which is the area of Iloilo City. An ILECO utility maintains a coverage area more than 10 times bigger.
At the Kape kag Isyu (Coffee & Issues), a talk show in its January 15, 2011 edition, two resource persons denounce private big business for squeezing blood from consumers. Ted Alvin Ong, chair of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Panay Chapter and its legal counsel, Atty. Romeo Gerochi, note that nothing can prevent the power distributor Panay Electric Company (PECO) from jacking up prices at will in cahoots with giants supplying it with power, namely Panay Power Corporation and its sweetheart Panay Electric Development Company (PEDC), the latter, owner of the coal-fired plant that is being commissioned.
Iloilo City is still bedevilled by rotating outages, averaging three hours daily, and soaring power prices despite the completion of the coal-fired power plant. Panay Power and Panay Electric had assured consumers cheaper and uninterrupted power supply, which turned out to be a mere ploy meant to dash the mounting opposition to the planned coal-fired power plant due to its toxic emissions, its destructive impact on the environment in general.
Panay Electric is still determined to defend Iloilo City’s rare distinction as home to the world’s most expensive electricity, notwithstanding. It has filed a petition applying for a P0.50 increase per kilowatt-hour in the distribution charge, which the FDC-Panay opposed.
The application is not intended as reimbursement for actual expenditures in the course of transmitting electricity to consumers but on the projected cost of its five-year plan to defray about P500 milion costs for a new building, a new substation and a fleet of cars for its executives.
FDC-Panay is filing an intervention suit with the Energy Regulatory Commission to oppose its application. It and other cause-oriented groups picketted the office of Panay Electric on January 13 to denounce the utility company greed and utter lack of public accountability.
Meanwhile, Atty. Gerochi warned of a worse scenario should big businss succeed in privatizing the Metro Iloilo Water District. “Just as what happened to the power sector where charges soared and services deteriorated, the similar trend at the MIWD will add more burdens on consumers and when that happens, it will be worse,” warns Gerochi.
“If we have brown-outs, we can remedy it by simply lighting candles,” Gerochi adds.”When we have no water, we have nowhere else to go. We can’t even dive into the Iloilo River.”
The Iloilo River is already too polluted that it is no longer suited for recreation.
Gerochi is the legal counsel of MIWD employees and management which are presently in a collision course with its Board of Directors; the former accuses of sabotaging the government-owned water utility so to justify its handover to big business — on a silver platter, for free and for a song. For one, the directors rewarded themselves fat emoluments amounting to about one million pesos in allowances, per diem and other perks though they are supposed to get only per diem when they attend board meetings which is once a month.