Bilyonaryo Manny V. Pangilinan is again courting the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte less than two weeks after the latter apologized for cursing, insulting and threatening with bodily harm the Maynilad Water boss for alleged corruption and market abuse.
Panglinan is again involved in a market abuse issue this time involving his group’s power utility, Manila Electric Co.
Bayan Muna cited numerous complaints of a doubling or tripling in their Meralco electricity bills that Meralco summarily attributed to a surge in power consumption when millions of Filipinos were forced to stay at home since the enhanced community quarantine was declared on March 16.
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force themselves debunked Meralco’s claim with their report that the Luzon power gird had an excess capacity due to lack of demand in the last two months.
“How can consumption increase when the demand is going down from as we enter the summer period?” asked Zarate.
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said the power monthly increases were not only questionable but could even be a violation of Bayanihan Law which gave Duterte emergency powers to regulate power supply and protect against profiteering during the lockdown.
Colmenares said Meralco should not even increase its rates as it has claimed “force majeure” among its supply contracts which meant it would l no longer pay its contract demand to its suppliers due to the COVID crisis.
Colmenares said the Energy Regulatory Commission should look into complaints of surge in electricity bills under Section 4 of the Bayanihan Law which empowered it “to regulate the supply power, fuel, energy and water and protect the people from profiteering, cartels, monopolies and other pernicious practices.”
“Meralco’s skyrocketing rates provide consumers and lawmakers alike painful proof that the law of supply and demand does not work when only one company – a monopoly like Meralco — controls the supply of a product or service,” he said.
“We also cannot expect Meralco to pick the least cost of electricity from among genco suppliers when Meralco also owns its own GenCos,” he added.
Will Duterte’s truce with Pangilinan hold or will this Meralco billing controversy trigger him to resume his attacks on the top executive of the Salim group of Indonesia?