Workers, other sectors launch metro-wide protest vs power rate hike

April 18, 2013

Urban poor activists from Gabriela, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay, and Piston Party-list, among others, launch a noise barrage protest to condemn rising electricity rates and high prices of basic commodities. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

Urban poor activists from Gabriela, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay, and Piston Party-list, among others, launch a noise barrage protest to condemn rising electricity rates and high prices of basic commodities. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

Workers led by militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, as well as other progressive organizations, launched Metro Manila-wide protests against the power rate hike this April and the rising prices of basic commodities.

Among the targets of protest was a local office in Espana Avenue, Manila of the country’s biggest power distributor, Manila Electro Co. (Meralco), which implemented a rate hike this month.

The workers criticized Pres. Benigno Aquino III for allowing capitalists in the power sector and Meralco to “take advantage of the increased demand for electricity during the summer period in order to gain bigger profits.”

A child holds a placard condemning recent increases in electricity rates. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

A child holds a placard condemning recent increases in electricity rates. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

“The country’s workers and the poor are revolted by Meralco’s imposition of yet another rate hike. Big capitalists in the power sector want to boost its profits at the expense of the public, most of whom are already suffering from low wages, high prices and lack of employment,” said Roger Soluta, secretary general of KMU.

Soluta lambasted Meralco’s “inconsiderate move” at a time when Filipinos are already suffering from low wages and prices of basic commodities continue to rise.

For its part, Meralco defended the rate hike. It said that the generation charge component of electricity bills increased by P0.20 per kilowatt-hour hike this April. This after there was a P0.55 per kWh hike in the combined cost of power that it purchased from the National Power Corp (Napocor) and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

Meralco also admitted that other components of household power bills also registered increases. For instance, the transmission charge and other charges went up by P0.01 and P0.06 per kWh, respectively.

“Adding these to the generation charge, an average residential customer with a 200-kWh monthly consumption will have a P0.27 per kWh increase in their April electricity bill, which means an additional P54 in the total bill,” explained Soluta.

 

He said that in its publicity gimmicks, Meralco has been asking consumers to conserve electricity. “(But) the main problem is that the entire sector is monopolized by big capitalists who follow the dictates of their greed,” he added.

It was only last month that Meralco also implemented a 10.1-centavo per kilowatt-hour hike which resulted in an added 19.38-centavo increase in the universal charge imposed by state-run Power Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.

Soluta explained that the decade-long implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira “only showed that the privatization and deregulation of basic public utilities and services are a failure for the Filipino workers and people.”

Members of the transport sector under Piston Party-list join in the protest. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

Members of the transport sector under Piston Party-list join in the protest. (Emilie Van Limbergen)

Other militant groups, like the women’s organization Gabriela, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay, Piston Party-list, among others, participated in the noise barrage protests in different parts of Quezon City.

Youth groups joined in the noise barrage, Carrying empty pots and pans to protest what they called “the continued inaction of the Aquino administration amidst spiralling prices of oil, tuition and basic commodities.”

“As more and more students drop out due to skyrocketing tuition in colleges and universities, as more and more Filipinos drown in the mire of poverty – here is an administration that is literally doing nothing to stop the spiralling cost of basic services,” said Kabataan Party-list President Terry Ridon.

KMU, meanwhile, vowed to intensify its protests against rising prices of basic commodities and low wages until May 1, the international workers’ day.

Photos by Emilie Van Limbergen