By TC Concepcion
Manila, Philippines-Leftwing activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday appealed to Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Lopez owned Manila Electric Company (Meralco) not to block the refund of P 6.4 billion to consumers representing overcharges of the utility firm in 2004 and 2007.
The P 6.4 B in overcharges was uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA) based on the request of the ERC to find out if the utility firm overcharged its customers in 2004 and 2007. The government audit agency affirmed allegations by some sectors that there was overcharging of electricity rates during the period.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson for Luzon Salvador France said ERC and Meralco officials should instead come into a gentleman’s agreement to fast track the refund to consumers, which he said was long overdue to Meralco’s million of consumers specifically in North and South of Luzon.
“Public interest lawfully and morally merits and dictates ERC and Meralco to correct their grave mistakes which sacrificed the collective interest of electric consumers from North and South of Luzon and the National Capital Region,” France said.
Pamalakaya said the fisherfolk along the coastal areas of Manila Bay, including NCR and the entire 27 municipal towns in Laguna Lake (Rizal and Laguna provinces) constitute the bulk of Meralco costumers and were part of the bigger based consuming bloc affected by overcharging or any sharp increase in electricity rates imposed by the utility firm.
The fisherfolk group estimate that around 28,000 fishing families in Cavite, Rizal and Laguna provinces were affected by Meralco’s overcharging in 2004 and 2007. Pamalakaya said the estimate is conservative and could be double or triple more.
Pamalakaya said the computation for refund should include interest accumulated for the use of P 6.4 billion and should be based on the current interest rate. The militant group said since Meralco had used the fund for operational expenses, interest from the use of people’s money representing overcharges should be included in the computation of the refund. #