Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. favors a review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to find ways to keep power rates low following reports that the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) will significantly increase its charges this month.
More than 10 years after the EPIRA was signed into law in 2001, power rates in the country have remained one of the highest in Southeast Asia, despite the law’s goal of pulling down electricity charges by encouraging competition in the power industry.
"I think it’s about time that we revisit the EPIRA and see if it's really working or if it really resulted in genuine competition that would supposedly lower costs," said Belmonte, who is also the honorary chairman of the NUP.
The Speaker issued the statement following the approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of a hike in power generation charges, which will be divided into three tranches: P2.41 per kWh this month, P1.21 per kWh in February next year, and P0.54 per kWh in March 2014.
"It's such an important matter that we need to revisit, it was passed more than 10 years ago, we have more than 10 years experience of it, so it's just right that we revisit it once again. The EPIRA should be revisited to assess whether it was successful and beneficial to the economy,” he said.
The Speaker said the House of Representatives can conduct an inquiry on the power rate hike in aid of legislation and ask for a rollback of electricity prices if it is determined that there exists no emergency that would warrant the sudden increase in electricity rates.
“Definitely, we will ask that [rollback], if there is no emergency, there should be no more emergency payments,” he said.
But “we cannot stop it, we can only inquire on it," he said, referencing the House Committee on Energy’s hearings on the matter.
The Joint Congressional Power Commission, chaired by Senator Sergio Osmeña III, has oversight powers to "ensure that the goals and objectives of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 are fully achieved."
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynadlo Umali, House Energy committee chair, chairs the committee jointly with Osmeña.