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Expensive electricity grips Southern Leyte

MAASIN CITY – A number of electric consumers in Southern Leyte are complaining about the steadily increasing high electricity rates. Not only are the small and medium businesses greatly affected, but most of the residents as well.
This development is troubling considering that the inflation rate in Southern Leyte is one of the highest in the region, which was also cited recently as one of the two places in Eastern Visayas with the highest electricity rates.
The Southern Leyte Cooperative (SOLECO) posted that electricity rate in October is P19.7611 per kWhr.
One finance officer of an established medium-sized school in the province divulged that for the first time their monthly electric bill reached more than half a million pesos. She said that this is way beyond the school budget. The school president immediately issued a directive with drastic measures to minimize power consumption. A popular local government official in Leyte province also made news when he expressed his dismay on their high electricity rate. He asked why, considering that the Tongonan geothermal power plant is just in the same island.
When asked about the issue of high electricity rates, the Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative (SOLECO) said that this is due to the generation charge. During a public forum in Maasin City, DORELCO, LEYECO Manager Allan Laniba said, “ We are buying only one electricity, why pay four (4) taxes? Let it be one tax only, as renewable energy is tax free.”
One solution to this, according to a local chamber of commerce president in the Visayas, is the amendment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) Law.
EPIRA mandates the Energy Regulatory Commission to promote competition, encourage market development, ensure consumer choice, and penalize abuse of market power in the electricity industry. However, evaluators say that there are inadequate regulatory safeguards; defective Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) structure and rules; and alleged market violations or abuse by the industry players.
The EPIRA was supposed to achieve two things—reduce power costs and assure power supply. It was supposed to create true competition and thus deregulation to lower power rates.
The Department of Energy, in turn, was mandated to establish policy and promote energy supply development. Likewise, the Joint Congressional Power Commission was supposed to assure the public that the law was responsive to the needs of the people and country, and to make amendments when needed.
Power cost has become unpredictable, and can jump at a rate that is more than what the business sector can handle.
Critics of the EPIRA Law said that there are no true new power plant players who can create a truly competitive generation supply that can give fair access to the market because groups that own gencos control the distribution utilities market. That those who consume less than 750 kW have no power to choose their generation company suppliers. They have to buy from the distribution utility at whatever rate.
The people still expect the government to step up. The EPIRA, under Section 71, allows the government to get involved only in power generation when there is an emergency—an “imminent shortage of supply of electricity.”
Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, during the organizational meeting of the Committee on Energy last August 10, 2022, reiterated his concern over the continued price increases of electricity in the countryside. Zubiri asked what can we do to stop the dramatic increase of prices of electricity for our fellow Filipinos all over the country.” (GMReyes)

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