DoE meets protests, repeal calls in its Mindanao-leg dialogue on EPIRA

feb 7, 2014

The Department of Energy met protests and range of reactions from various sectors Thursday in Davao City in the Mindanao-leg of its series of consultative dialogues aimed to draw inputs and recommendations on the review of the 13-year old Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law as various quarters move to have the law amended.

The labor and militant groups are one in their call for the repeal of Epira which they said they opposed before it was legislated thirteen years ago, forewarning that it would be detrimental to the people for favoring the private capitalists.

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“Privatization, which is the framework of Epira, cannot deliver its sweet promises. Thirteen years after its enactment, Epira is one big broken promise. Instead of fair and free competition, the power industry fell into the hands of a few private capitalists. Instead of reasonable prices of electricity, we end up having power hikes every year. We want it repealed,” said Rolando Pacanot of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)-Southern Mindanao.

Alliance of Progressive Labor- Mindanao spokesman Randy Ponteras said the power industry needs “not just a reboot but a major reformating.”

He added that the Nagkakaisa Mindanao, a coalition of labor groups, that besides their call for Epira’s scrapping “we want a permanent stay in the planned privatization of the Agus-Pulangi hydropower plants, and a reform of the Energy Regulatory Commission, among others.”

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“It’s time to rethink and come up with a new model of power, that is different before and under Epira,” said
Partido ng Manggagawa Mindanao spokesman Gerry Torres.

On the other hand, Lanao Power Consumers Federation chairperson Melchora Ambalong saw two contentions on Epira- either it be repealed or amended.

She said that her group in the past participated in the drawing up of the implementing rules and regulations of Epira wanting “to mitigate” the law’s various flaws and questionable provisions that need to be amended.

She blamed the Dept. of Energy for not tapping power consumers when decisions on power increases were taken during Epira’s period of implementation.

“We can mitigate the existing Epira while waiting for the new Epira law to be made,” she added.

Businessman Vic Lao of the Mindanao Business Council, on the other hand, said that even under Epira businessmen have been burdened of high electricity rates in the country.

“I don’t whether it’s a repeal or amendment to Epira, but what is needed is to bring down the cost of electricity as we top among having the highest rates in the world. We need to bring our electricity rates down if we want to go into Asean integration by 2015,” he added.

During the dialogue, leaders of competing leftist groups Bayan Muna and FDC clashed over ideological matters like neo-liberalism, globalization and privatization as dictated by the World Bank as the “bankrupt framework of Epira” while representatives from the academe, power consumers, chamber of commerce, local government units and national government agencies listened.

Midway in the dialogue, APL labor leaders surprisingly unfurled “repeal Epira” banners on cartolina papers in the conference table.

Earlier in Thursday morning, Bayan Muna and its allied groups picketed at the gate of Insular Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao where the review-dialogue was held.

Among the items in the range of inputs and recommendations drawn from various Mindanao stakeholders by the DoE through focus group discussion were related to power pricing, ownership structure, Agus-Pulangi rehabilitation, PSALM, NCGP, ERC powers, Napocor loans, wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), Mindanao gird and power situation.

DoE-EPIMB national director Mylene Capongcol played it cool, saying that the Mindanao-leg dialoague was “very enlightening as we gained a wider perspective of things. It’s just a start.”

She said the DoE has already finished its consultative dialogues with related national agencies and in Luzon and Visayas.

The DoE scheduled its national consultative dialogue to be attended by regional focus group discussion representatives on Feb. 18 at SMX Convention Center, SM Taguig City.

“After which, the consolidated inputs from national dialogue would be submitted to DoE Secretary Jericho Petilla, who would then report it to President Aquino,” Capongcol said. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)

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