11% of workers’ pay said to go to power bills
If power rates would continue to escalate, workers could be forced to seek another wage hike and render local industries uncompetitive, according to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In an interview Friday, PCCI president Francis Chua said that while Filipino workers had relatively lower purchasing power than their counterparts in many other countries, they still had to deal with electricity rates that were among the highest in the world.
“What is the take-home pay of Filipinos versus foreign employees? Get the percentage that is allocated to electricity. Are our rates then more affordable? If our electricity rates remain high, it may trigger another wage hike,” Chua told reporters.
“But no amount of wage increase can suffice if we can’t stop the runaway cost of power.”
Associated Labor Unions national vice president Gerard Seno related that around 11 percent of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income went to electric bills.
Impact on family budget
Seno said high power rates would eat into a family’s budget for food, medicine, shelter and education.
“The workers’ sector, therefore, is calling on President Aquino to give attention to and make the necessary bold policy interventions not just to mitigate the impact of this high cost of electricity but confront this potentially worsening problem affecting millions of workers,” Seno said.
“(We are) calling on President Aquino to make politically difficult decisions, beginning by directing the [Energy Regulatory Commission] to suspend all pending hearing petitions for higher electricity rates and strategize the best approach to bring the cost to a reasonable level,” he added.
Chua said there was a need to “regulate the regulator”—meaning the public should be more aware of how power rates were being set by being present during hearings.
“Everyone should be in the hearings when there are petitions for rate hikes. It’s our job. We have a right to protest,” Chua said.
For his part, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the Department of Energy was doing everything it could, given its limitations.
The DOE, Almendras said, is powerless when it came to rate-setting because that mandate belongs to the ERC.
Even the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., the entity behind rate adjustments and recoveries, has no control over rate-setting, he added.
“If they are referring to the DOE, there’s not much we can do about pricing. We have no jurisdiction over power rates. The law mandates us to not interfere with pricing,” Almendras said.
“Even PSALM … a financial institution, is not an operational entity. Even if the president of PSALM decides he doesn’t want (to file rate hike petitions), he is still liable because of the law.”
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