GABRIELA challenges Duterte to put moratorium on opportunist Meralco rate hike



Militant women’s group GABRIELA has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to order the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to its hike in electricity rates amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“No Mercy! Meralco invites pandemonium amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr.Duterte should put a stop to the rate hike,” said GABRIELA in reaction to the planned electricity rate hike this month by Meralco.

Meralco has announced that there would be an overall rate increase of P0.1050 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to be reflected starting the April billing month, which is equivalent to a PhP21 rise in the total bill of a typical household consuming 200 kWh a month. Meralco averred that while generation charges were lower due to the Luzon-wide community quarantine, the rate hike for this month is due to a re-increase in the Universal Charge after a one-time refund to consumers in the month of March.

But for Joms Salvador, Secretary General of GABRIELA, “Meralco’s rate increase is a merciless, callous, opportunist act that only a privatized, profit-hungry enterprise like Meralco can do. As daily wage earners already suffer anxiety over where to get their next meal, or whether they would receive any food or cash assistance from government, Meralco takes advantage of the pandemic to increase its profits.”

GABRIELA lamented  that big corporations like Meralco are abetted by the Duterte government in taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to bleed the people dry and exact more profits. According to GABRIELA, this is contrary to Duterte’s pronouncements that he will go after entities who will take advantage of the crisis for their own interests.

“We challenge Mr. Duterte to use his emergency powers to recall Meralco’s rate hike. Duterte should put a moratorium on payments of bills and utility rate hikes in particular. The government pours support on the interests of the wealthiest while presenting next to nothing to daily wage earners. With huge funds at his disposal, Duterte could have swiftly provided for the necessary social protection of cash assistance, food supplies and health needs especially for the most marginalized families,” Salvador said.

“Before COVID-19, low wage earners and contractual workers, most of whom are women, could hardly cope in paying a thousand-peso electric bill consuming only the basic utilities such as lights and electric fans. Now with the ‘stay at home’ policy under the Luzon-wide COVID-19 lockdown, every household has presumably increased its normal daily electricity usage. While many wage earners, especially women, are reeling from a ‘no work, no pay’ arrangement, prospects of getting financial assistance from the Duterte government’s COVID-19 Social Amelioration Program remain bleak for many households,” Salvador added.

GABRIELA has consistently guarded against rate hikes of Meralco since families especially in the low-income households increasingly suffer from high power rates imposed by Meralco on its consumers. The Philippines is currently ranked second to Japan with the highest electricity rate in the whole of Asia./Stacy Ang

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