Silver Lining for 2021: Lower Electricity Cost?

The Constitution clearly guarantees every Filipino rights to adequate access of basic services including electricity, yet, most are still left grappling in the dark.

Even for those living in major cities, access to a dependable energy supply is still challenging. Ironically, a 2017 ADB Institute paper mentions that electricity access in the country is at ninety percent (90%). However, access to electricity remains low in rural areas, with an average of 85% and 77% in Mindanao. Some factors that hinder access in some areas are remoteness or being far from existing power lines, and are not reached by power supply providers. Many, however, may have access but could not afford to pay for this crucial commodity.

Moreover, a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey (November 2020), forty eight percent (48%) of Filipino families rated themselves as “poor”, with many claiming to have experienced increased hunger, particularly due to the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty is a crucial factor in accessibility to electricity services. The Philippines ranked second (2nd) in having the highest electricity cost in the Southeast Asian Region. An average consumer must be able to afford PhP10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or about USD 0.20 just to enjoy electricity.
It is also important to note that energy has a key role in economic development. Having a dependable and accessible energy input is an element that will spur the growth of communities.

On the contrary, what we have in the Philippines is an energy industry that further excludes stakeholders with expensive pricing – literally and figuratively keeping people in the dark.

However, not all hope is lost.

Two separate Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys before January 2021 showed that 91% of Filipinos are welcoming 2021 with hope, and 44% of adult Filipinos expect their quality-of-life to improve in the next 12 months.

This optimism is not without basis. Last year, our vigilance at Kuryente.Org exposed the unscrupulous charges of MERALCO that eventually led to a penalty and refund of 1.4 billion pesos in excess collections.

This 2021, will continue the momentum from last year to advance the rights of energy consumers through proactive participation, which is key to a more progressive energy industry.

At this time and age, when electricity is fast becoming one of the conduits for work-from-home (WFH) arrangements and distance learning schemes, it is necessary for the energy sector not to further burden the public with incompetence and greedy profiteering, instead provide an enabling model for dependable and accessible supply.

This 2021, we hope to meaningfully engage the progressive implementation of existing laws and policies, like the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) or Republic Act 9136, an act that is meant to offer open competition among the different private power generation conglomerates for the benefit of the wider community, making it more consumer-centered, permitting better access, and increased buying capacity for the millions of Filipinos who are now much more dependent on electricity.

Aside from working together to achieve lower electricity rates, it is equally important that all of us should work together with key agencies, institutions, and offices tasked to protect the rights and welfare of consumers.

Much has been said about 2020, we should work together to make sure that 2021 is the year where we all come together, empower each other, and engage our governments and big businesses to effectively realize accessible energy for all Filipinos.

About Kuryente.Org

Kuryente.Org is a consumer welfare organization that aims to pursue transparency and good governance in the energy industry sector with the ultimate objective of ensuring the rights of the people for a progressive energy sector and industry in the Philippines.

To realize consumer choices, Kuryente.Org aims to build and strengthen partnerships to advocate for the robust implementation of existing energy laws and key energy policies to ensure equal and competitive business opportunities in the energy sector and industry and develop needed infrastructures within planetary limits.

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Silver Lining for 2021: Lower Electricity Cost? Silver Lining for 2021: Lower Electricity Cost? Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Thursday, January 28, 2021 Rating: 5

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