[Opinion] Queen City of expensive electricity

I’m not sure if Iloilo City’s local chief executive is mindful of the expensive electricity rate of Panay Electric Co. (PECO) when it coined the slogan “My City, My Pride”. Although it is unwritten in billboards, PECO’s exorbitant electricity charges left a permanent impression among the Ilonggos and visitors.

A visiting foreign national that attended a conference held in Iloilo City two weeks ago was shocked to learn of our prevailing electricity rates. The city takes pride in it while consumers could not help but become masochistic by accepting the monthly customary beating.

Now with an effective rate of P10.57 per kilowatt-hour, this means a household that consumes monthly electricity of 195 kilowatt-hours will pay P2,043 monthly to PECO.

A comparative rates monitoring that we at the Freedom from Debt Coalition undertook revealed that PECO remains at the top rank with the highest effective rate among power distribution utilities in the Philippines.

For instance, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) which serves the entire National Capital Region has only P9.89/kWh effective rate; Cebu City P9.63/kWh; Davao City P7.30/kWh; General Santos P6.85/kWh and Bacolod City P5.54/kWh.

The rates showed that we are paying the highest electricity in the entire country in despite the presence of a coal-fired power plant that promised to provide cheap rates. Their promise has been broken several times but such become useful for politicians who pushed for the establishment of the coal-fired power plant. These public officials think that without the said power plant, we cannot achieve progress; and without progress, we cannot reclaim our title Queen City of the South.

Can we really say that we have achieved progress now that the coal plant is already operational and displayed as a tourist attraction, seen by those entering the Iloilo City port? Yes, according to those who support it and those who can afford to pay expensive electricity. But, that plant is not there just to supply the city’s power needs but to earn billions of pesos of profits through a contract. This is the reason why we are paying expensive electricity.

Look at the items in the monthly bill; it is the generation charge that is the highest at P7.90/kWh and followed by the distribution charge at P1.22/kWh. The generation charge is a charge leveled to consumers by Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC), the one operating the coal-fired plant, and Panay Power Corp. (PPC), the one that operates a diesel plant. These companies were touted as the savior of Iloilo City but at a good price.

The distribution charge, on the other hand, is a charge that goes to PECO. The charge has recently increased from P0.86/kWh to P1.22/kWh as a result of its compliance to the Energy Regulatory Commissions (ERC) enforcement of a new regulatory method called Performance-Based Regulation.

The performance-based regulation is a mechanism that will measure the quality of PECO’s performance or delivery of service to consumers. The increase means that PECO will charge to consumers of Iloilo City the amount they will use to construct a new office building, buy luxury vehicles for its executives, and upgrade facilities and equipment.

So it is us consumers who chip-in money on a monthly basis so that PECO could comply with ERC’s standards. What an excellent idea by the ERC in favor of private business. However, PECO has a track record of being abusive in handling consumers and their concerns. The complaint by individual consumers are piling up at PECO like misreading of meter, charging inaccurate amount of monthly consumption and similar cases.

Why these malpractices are being tolerated by the local government? Your guess is as good as mine. After all PECO has become excellent in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) by donating housing units for the less fortunate through the Gawad Kalinga. So, on one hand PECO victimizes the rich and the poor alike with its exorbitant charges and abusive practices; on the other hand, it volunteers to give housing units to the selected poor.

This is an excellent practice and PECO in collusion with our local politicians has become an expert in fooling the Ilonggos.

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