Labor groups open season of protests with action against high electricity rates

‘Tis not the season of hope for the workers amidst the Christmas trimmings and the media’s’ announcement of the release of workers’ Christmas bonuses, as labor groups denounce the escalating power rate that continues to hound the nation.

Labor groups belonging to the country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa! said they are getting impatient over the failure of Malacañang to address the problems of increasing power rates, seven months after the group raised this concern at a breakfast meeting with President Aquino last Labor Day.

The group said the problem of high power rates, now the highest in Asia and one of the most expensive in the world, “is a burden that workers refuse to endure forever.”

In a press conference held in Quezon City this morning, leaders of Nagkaisa! decried as unjust the government’s deliberate move to leave this problem to market rules which leaves the people suffering from private power companies’ unmoderated greed that is allowed under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). They also denounced the government’s plan to implement the Open Access Scheme on December 26, 2012 without the benefit of a consumer impact assessment and without any regard to the consumers who will be affected by the increase of electricity rates.

“We ask President Aquino to address this problem immediately. We want his Cabinet to present a road map, a decisive battle plan to reduce this unjust power rates in the country,” Eva Arcos, Nagkaisa! spokesperson, said.

The labor coalition asked the government to raise the workers’ daily minimum wage by at least P90 and to reduce the rates of electricity rates, among others, on May 1, 2012. Malacañang officials assured the labor leaders that the P-Noy administration shall respond to their demands to stop the indexation of natural gas and geothermal energy to the international price of oil and coal and to defer the implementation of open-access.

The group indicated this action will open the season of protest against the government’s bad economics and showed a bare Christmas tree representing ‘Krisis-mas’. They also announced their plan to join the national day of protest in different parts of the country against high power rates organized by the Freedom from Debt Coalition and other groups on November 22.

Vince Camilon, another NAGKAISA! spokesperson, said seven months have passed but none of their demands on the power issue were met while only a third or PhP30 only of TUCP’s demand for PhP90 daily wage hike was granted by the regional wage board in the National Capital Region.

“Why does the government act very strong in regulating wages to the barest minimum but so weak and powerless in reducing unjust electricity rates? Bakit iba ang trato sa manggagawa at iba sa Voltage 5 na sina Manny Pangilinan, Aboitiz, Lopez, Henry Sy at Danding? Ito ba ang tuwid na daan?”, Camilon said.

The group said the power rates doubled since the privatization of the power industry from PhP5 in 2001 to PhP12 per kWh in 2012. Diesel prices have increased by at least 196% since the deregulation of the oil industry, from PhP13/liter in 2001 to P41/liter in 2012. The same goes for water rates that went up by at least 665% in the west zone and 891% in the east zone after privatization.

“However, the daily nominal wage of workers in Metro Manila increased by only 82% from PhP 250 in 2001 to the current wage at PhP456,” Arcos, said.

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