Consumer group hits high power rates, bats for Epira amendment
MANILA, Philippines — High power rates continue to repel both foreign and domestic investors from setting up businesses in the country, a consumer group said over the weekend.
According to United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), the Philippines’ power rates are among the highest in Asia and are a threat to the government’s economic goals.
“The foreign investors we are trying to attract will not set up business here due to the prohibitive electricity prices. Those companies are owned by a few oligarch(s),” UFCC’s president Rodolfo Javellana Jr. was quoted as saying in the group’s statement.
He said high power rates, especially in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) service areas accounting for more than 75 percent of the economy, is a major disincentive in efforts to attract more investors, foreign or local.
“The ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ initiatives will not be realized if electricity rates continue to be expensive and costly,” Javellana added.
The group’s statement comes following a 57-centavo per kilowatt hour (kWh) increase in electricity rates of Meralco which translates to an increase of about P114 in the total bill of households consuming 200 kWh a month.
Meanwhile, in late January, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country’s economy only grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year in 2023, missing the government’s target of 6 to 7 percent for last year.
The UFCC president said that to bring a more “investor friendly business climate,” lawmakers in Congress should “dismantle law allowing monopolies in electric utilities and revise the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira of 2001 to lower the cost of electricity in the country.”
“If that is the law, then we should revise or modify, instead of them prioritizing amending the Constitution,” Javellana stressed.
“We want the economy to improve, we want more ‘foreign direct investments’, then electricity must be made affordable so that there will [be] a lot of investments going in the country,” he added.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Senator Nancy Binay said it is difficult for investors to enter the country due to “inconsistent electricity policies” in the country which should be fixed through legislation.
“The key here is the Epira (which must [be] amended or revised),” the UFCC head continued.
Meralco, for its part, said the new rate hike was due to the increase in generation charge which was then due to the higher cost of power from Independent Power Producers and Power Supply Agreements.
The power provider also increased the electricity rate by P0.0846 per kWh in January.