Philippines: Junk the EPIRA, VAT to suppress energy rate hikes-IP group

"BS Aquino's lame duck attitude towards pressing issues is sickening. A President who claims to be powerless to address the people's needs is no way for Aquino to act amidst crises," says Piya Macliing Malayao, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) spokesperson said. "BS Aquino’s impotency to protect its people and ensure their welfare makes this government worthless to its constituents."

The indigenous peoples' group criticized the Aquino government over Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte claim last Friday that the government is limited by the law in responding to the rate hike being implemented by power firm Manila Electric Co. The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), institutionalized a liberalized and market-based power industry for secure and affordable supply of electricity for the public.

"The EPIRA has failed to provide affordable electricity; we are now in the running for the country with the highest electricity price in the world. The repeal of this law must be first on the agenda of the President in addressing the power rate hikes, but Aquino dillydallies in making the repeal of the EPIRA law as an urgent matter. This is not congruent to the people's outrage over the electricity rate hikes," Malayao stated.

The group further claimed that the EPIRA law has crippled the country's ability to generate a nationalized power industry, and strongly favors energy corporations. "The WESM is dominated by a few energy producers who dictate the price of electricity. These enterprises has latched on our energy industry and leeched billions from the pockets of consumers since the EPIRA law has been in place in 1991," Malayao said. "This is brazen highway robbery of electricity consumers."

According to IBON Foundation, only five companies control 80% of power capacity in the country: Cojuangco/SMC (22%), Aboitiz (20%), Lopez (18%), Ty (12%) and Consunji (8%). These same firms own the plants with allegedly coordinated forced outages including Ilijan (Cojuangco/SMC), San Lorenzo (Lopez) and Calaca (Consunji); the other two plants are GN Power (Ayala) and Masinloc (AES).

The group also pointed out that the cancellation of Value Added Tax (VAT) on basic services such as water, electricity, and petroleum products could greatly alleviate the financial burdens of the people. "We refuse to accept that Aquino is helpless in soothing the sore backs of Filipinos bearing the hefty weight of living decently in our county. In fact Aquino has proved himself very capable in answering to capitalist greed. He is quick to inflict mining operations and repressive military campaigns to the Filipino people; but he is possessed with handicaps when it comes to answering the people's demands," Malayao said.

Malayao also shared that several energy projects are poised to dislocate indigenous peoples all over the country; most of these are hydropower plants. "Indigenous peoples oppose these energy projects because it violates indigenous peoples' rights to land and resources, and because we know that these projects do not prioritize the welfare of the Filipino people but for profit," she said.

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Date: 06/01/2014

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Philippines

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