Catanduanes consumers seek PNoy’s help vs power rate hike

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Catanduanes Provincial Capitol Building. Photo by Rodolfo Franciscco
Catanduanes Provincial Capitol Building. Photo by Rodolfo Franciscco

LEGAZPI CITY (30-Jan-12) – Multi-sectoral groups representing over 30,000 power consumers in the province of Catanduanes have appealed for an intervention from President Benigno Aquino III towards the stay in the province of the imposition by the National Power Corporation (NPC) of the latest power rate increase recently approved by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB).

According to the NPC, the rate increase amounting to P1.4282 per kilowatt hour (kwh) which was imposed this month is meant for the government-owned energy firm to recover within a four-year period P4 billion of its P12 billion losses to fuel and foreign exchange incurred by the operations of its several Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) in the country from 2005 to 2009.

Part of these fuel cost losses amounting to P537 million according to the NPC was incurred by the Catanduanes SPUG facility which is the 2.2-megawatt Marinawa diesel plant which supplies 30 percent of the province’s total power requirement. It also operates the 1.8-megawatt Balombong mini hydropower plant.

The other power need of the province is being provided by the two hydropower plants in San Miguel and Caramoran tows established and operated by the Sunwest Water and Electric Power Co. Inc. (SUWECO), a private non-renewable energy developer that currently supplies a total of 3.6 megawatts of electricity to the locality.

Power rate being charged by this firm to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO), the local distributor, is only P5.4148 per kwh or more than 50 percent lower than the NPC rate.

Through twin resolutions approved on Aug. 1, 2011, the ERC granted the six separate petitions of the NPC for the approval of rate increase under the Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and the recovery of incremental costs on foreign currency exchange fluctuations under the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Mechanism Adjustment (ICERA).

The rate hike brought the cost of electricity being supplied by the NPC through its petroleum-fed generating facilities and also distributed by the FICELCO to residential and commercial users from P11.15 to P12.58 per kwh. This new rate will be applied within four years until 2016.

The increase came at the time when local businesses, majority of which are of micro-level capitalizations, are scrambling to comply with an enormous increase in municipal taxes and the increasing prices of commodities spiked by a global fuel price hike, the multi-sectoral groups said in a joint-petition letter sent to Pres. Aquino last week.

“We are terribly worried that the power hike, implemented abruptly, would deprive a large number of consumers of whatever savings from their monthly income, with the extra cost of power better spent for other vital household needs such as education, health and food,” they said in the letter, copy of which to the PNA here over the weekend.

They pleaded with the President to intercede with the NPC or the ERC so that the approved power rate hike is implemented on a staggered basis for six years, instead of just four years.

“Such modification in the implementation of the ERC resolution would result in a lower rate of increase from P1.4282 to only about P0.95 per kwh, thus accordingly cushioning its effects on the people of Catanduanes,” they said.

Signatories to the petition include Bishop Manolo delos Santos representing the local hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Rotary Club Virac Chapter president Susan Ordinario for the civic sector, Catanduanes Consumers Association president Eddie Rodulfo, Catanduanes Producers Association president Cesar Angeles and Contractors Association president Samuel Laynes.

Other signatories are Virac Association of Barangay Chairmen Rosario Arcilla, Provincial Agriculture and Fishery Council chairman Ulysses Tabilin, Catanduanes Chamber of Furniture Industries president Edgar Balmadrid, Seniors Citizens Association president Arsenio Romero, Catanduanes Tribune publisher Fernan Gianan.

Virac Vendors Association president Rey Castelar, Conception Ang-Hung representing the traders’ group, Ports Arrastre and Stevedoring Cooperative president Manuel Sarmiento, Lily Co representing the hardware and construction material dealers organization and Holy Name Society president Hermin Zafe. (PNA)

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