By Pet Melliza
We thought all the while that it is the Formosa Heavy Industries-Global Business Power that had the highest stake when the coal-fired power plant was still in the drawing board.
Now, we realize that it is Uygunku (never mind the spelling) who also owns the only flour mill in Western Visayas, who is the biggest winner in the swindle of setting up the controversial power generator. Formosa turned out to be only the supplier of machinery.
Uygunku is the biggest shareholder of the Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) that owns the coal-fired power plant at Ingore, La Paz, Iloilo City.
The plant is now in place and operating. In 2007, when its paid hacks (to include Padre Damaso whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as his looks) were still wooing Ilonggos’ acceptance, they did three things: first, they promised heaven, second, they promised heaven and third, they promised heaven to all power consumers regardless of race, age, religion and sex. And they succeeded to keep their word for a while. For the past three months, Iloilo City enjoyed the country’s cheapest electricity and it appeared that it was one promise fulfilled by PEDC.
Consumers enjoyed the rate of only P7.30 per kwh. That turned out to be the same trick of overfeeding a Peking duck prior to bleeding it dead. Unbeknownst to us, PEDC already wanted to charge high but could not because the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) had not yet approved its rate application.
We were lulled into blissful ignorance that the P7.30 per kilowatt/hour energy that Panay Power Corporation (PECO) was distributing was already one heaven come true that PEDC and its mouthpieces promised.
However, that was short lived. The local media reports that starting this month, power rate charged by PECO will jack up by P3.30 per kilowatt/hour which means, Iloilo City power consumers are as cursed as their counterparts in the three electric cooperatives of Iloilo (ILECO 1, 2 and 3) whose electric bills also hit past the P10.60 per kwh mark.
The scenario has many countless actors, all programmed to help Uygunku and his PEDC to justify a broad daylight robbery. Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who fawned and was one of the key players who railroaded the entry of the coal-fired power plant, now sheds crocodile tears for consumers.
Mabilor sent an actor in the person of Victor Facultad to the ERC to file a motion for reconsideration because the approved rate increase was excessive. According to him, the reasonable hike is only P1.50 per kwh.
Mabilog could not feign ignorance. He was well informed by environmentalists that “cheap coal” was but a myth. No less than Rep. (then mayor) Jerry Trenas’s sister-in-law, Dok Kristin, lectured him (as vice mayor then) and other city officials to include Buenaventura Geronimo (whoever he might be) that coal in the hands of capitalists, can never, never be cheap. He ignored her. Dok Kristin, a medical specialist, was one of the most articulate and vigorous oppositors in the entry of the coal-fired power plants.
The explanation for that is simple: big capitalists invest not to promote public welfare, but to rake superprofits as much as possible no matter what. That applies for coal-fired power plants as well.
Now Mabilog wants to score pogi points: kunu, he is going against, Alfonso Uy, by filing a motion for reconsideration with the ERC to reduce the rate approved for PEDC. Such tall tale.
If he were sincere, Mabilog should have examined the books and asked PEDC why it bloated its construction costs to justify its proposed rate. Or, as mayor of this unfortunate city, he should have ordered PEDC to explain how its earlier computation of the total costs of P6 billion ballooned to P12 billion.
PEDC has bloated its construction cost to justify a P10.60 per kwh power cost. The public uproar generated in the wake of news that ERC already granted PEDC’s rate hike application bodes ill for consumers.
For one, it merely shows that the ERC, like its sister department the Department of Energy (DoE), has been created by law to accomplish one thing: serve as legal counsel not only for power producers, but, worse, for the Oil Cartel.
See the complicity of the ERC–DoE in ignoring consumers’ rights against the cartel?*