EPIRA, epic fail

30 March 2012

i’ve long been wondering about EPIRA or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 that was enacted by congress supposedly to cut high power costs by privatizing the mismanaged and debt-ridden napocor.  obviously EPIRA hasn’t worked, doesn’t work.  read this from philstar‘s marichu villanueva, Thanks, P-Noy, for saying no to emergency powers and an appeal that he revisit EPIRA in the face of impending increases  in power rates.

The other day it was reported the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved on March 26 the pending rate adjustment petitions by Napocor and the PSALM to enable them to recover costs incurred from 2007 to 2010. Based on the ERC decision, electricity rates for Luzon are up by 69.04 centavos per kilowatt-hour (kwh); Visayas, 60.60 centavos per kwh; and Mindanao, 4.42 centavos per kwh effective this May.

Speaking of ERC, the EPIRA authorized it to determine the universal charge. This gave distribution utilities like Meralco and Napocor the right to pass on the burden of paying for stranded costs under the IPP contracts to consumers.

Thus, more than a decade after its passage into law, EPIRA is obviously no cure-all to the problems of stable and affordable supply of electric power in our country. That is why there have been persistent calls to amend the EPIRA to correct the flaws of this law to really achieve its mandate to bring down the cost of electricity in our country, which is the highest in this part of the world.

Congress giving him emergency powers will not solve it. Let’s face it. Legislators will always try to suit their own selfish interests into the laws they craft.

indeed, there’s no counting on legislators to help us out here.  senator serge osmena‘s briefer on the mindanao power crisis simply sounds so complicit to me, as though everything’s as it should be in luzon and the visayas, as if spiralling costs to make power oligarchs happy, never mind the suffering middle-class and the masses, were not a form of corruption, too, and we’re not even talking VAT yet.  read this from tribune.  the history, the rumors of lagayan, the scam…

Serge’s Epira contradictions
Herman Tiu Laurel

The electricity spaghetti hit the ceiling fan last week, and the stench of the power oligarchs reeks all over the place. Now it’s not just electricity consumers charging the oligarchs and their captive government officials with conspiracy; local officials, such as North Cotabato Gov. Emilou Taliño-Mendoza and General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, are saying that the Mindanao power crisis is “intentional.” Even Sen. Koko Pimentel openly agrees with Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chairman Lualhati Antonino’s assertion that the “artificial shortage” is the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines’ (NGCP) means to “have the Agus-Pulangi Power Plant privatized.”

The NGCP is by no means the main culprit. It goes way up to the oligarchy and the international corporatist mafia behind it. We must remember that the NGCP Frankenstein was sewn together by Fidel Ramos’ Monte Oro Corp., with the Carlyle Group catalyzing the entry of the State Grid Corp. of China, together with the Sy Group, to become the NGCP.

Monstrous as it became, the NGCP Frankenstein is but the son. The mother Frankenstein is the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which, in its time, was sewn together by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), the illegal Gloria Arroyo regime, the oligarchs and their Yellow “civil society,” together with the corrupt 12th Congress of Edsa II. They managed to use the thread of the ADB’s $900-million power sector loan and the IMF-WB’s $300-million rehabilitation loan release as conditions for the enactment of the Epira into law.

The local power oligarchs were also alleged to have contributed to a payola of P500,000 for every member of Congress under Speaker Sonny Belmonte, which emoluments were further spruced up by Gloria’s P10-million per congressman “O, Ilaw” project. And, like the current railroaded Corona “Articles of Impeachment,” it is doubtful that even half-a-dozen of the representatives or senators who signed the Epira even read it.

As for media, the oligarch-controlled “presstitute” (press-prostitute) merely suppressed the truth. Only a few, like this columnist and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), campaigned in the streets against it.

The argument for Epira was that the monopoly enjoyed by the government’s National Power Corp. (Napocor) was too big to be efficient and had to be broken up into smaller units. Fast forward to today and the chairman of the Senate energy committee, Serge Osmeña, himself a champion of the Epira, now argues for the expansion of the split-up units.

In his defense of Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Rene Almendras’ disastrous handling of the Mindanao power crisis, Osmeña claims the Energy chief “is aware of economies of scale and that electricity would be cheaper for everyone if distributed over a bigger transmission grid than a smaller one…”

The shift in tone is obviously because much of the elite — a class to which Osmeña belongs — have already formed an oligopoly in the sector and are using their clout to blackmail the entire nation into swallowing the “highest power cost in Asia.”

Osmeña says, “The national reform policy on electricity… was to harness the finances and management talents of the private sector in ensuring that the country would be supplied in a timely manner with dependable, quality and reasonably priced power…” Really?

Independent power producers (IPP) are private utility companies established on the basis of state “sovereign guarantees” and/or securitization of captive consumers’ aggregate payments in a contract period. Here, securitization comes in “the form of financial instruments used to obtain funds from… investors… backed by amortizing cash flows.” These cash flows, in turn, are derived from the pockets of millions of electricity consumers.

Historically, securitization was done by the Republic of the Philippines to launch the Napocor; and as government did not shell out any money, only acting as an intermediary of the funds from power consumers, we can say that the power sector was never (repeat, NEVER) subsidized.

When the state’s power assets were still under Napocor control, the price of electricity in the Philippines was not only competitive but one of the lowest in Asia. Today, after Epira, power costs in this country have shot up way into the stratosphere.

In the case of Mindanao, we now see the IPPs blackmailing consumers, the way the privatized Aboitiz Group Power Barges 117 and 118 and the now Lopez-run Mt. Apo Geothermal are being used to force Mindanaoans into accepting 20-year, exorbitantly priced contracts, or else continue being denied much-needed electricity.

But wait. Isn’t price a reflection of these privateers’ much-vaunted “efficiency?” If so, aren’t they and other utilities like the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) guilty of doing their jobs at a very high cost to the nation and, in fact, destroying its entire economy?

Therefore, given that these oligarchs are only “efficient” from the point of view of profit extraction, totally missing the mark of providing efficient and reliable electricity at the least cost to consumers, why should we accept any of this, in view of the fact that things have gone from bad to worse despite 90 percent of the power sector being privatized?

As if to further cover up the litany of lies that is the Epira, Osmeña raises another point, saying that “Napocor was bankrupt and that even if it sold all of its assets, it still could not cover its liabilities.”

Napocor was a very healthy and viable public corporation before Corazon Aquino, her Yellow gang, and her oligarch-patrons took over the reins of the Philippine Republic. They abolished the Ministry of Energy and placed its functions under the Office of the President to ensure an efficient dismantling of the nation’s energy development program. They established almost a dozen IPPs and cancelled half a dozen major energy projects (including the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant). All these led to a “Dark Age” under a Cory-appointed oligarch as Napocor head. What followed during the Ramos era were 43 more plundering IPP contracts that were to be the most massive bloodletting of Napocor’s resources to this day — via the $18-billion so-called stranded debts that Epira was supposed to have erased but never did. All these have transpired while the oligarchs have not paid $10 billion of what they owe government for these privatized assets.

The current Speaker, Sonny Belmonte, when pressed for a response to the crescendo of complaints from Mindanao lawmakers, said, “We have to investigate (the power crisis) to know what is going on.” Let’s see when the investigation will start and how far it will go (considering who the distribution source of the Epira payola in 2001 really is).

Still, on a slightly positive note, despite the elder Sen. Nene Pimentel’s signing of the Epira, we are hopeful that the younger Pimentel will take up the energy cause in the Upper Chamber this time. My only criticism is that he may have weakened his position when he stated, “If I need to personally beg to Senator Osmeña to hold the inquiry before the Holy Week break, I will have to.”

Why even beg, Koko? Your duty lies with the people and no one else.

 

2 Responses to EPIRA, epic fail

  1. April 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm
    ricelander

    High power cost is much much worse than corruption itself. at least what the bureaucrat stole would yet go around. but what is lost because of high cost of electricity is forever lost, vanished into thin air. imagine the accumulated savings every family would have had for years now but which went to paying the bills instead. imagine all the jobs that should have materialized but never had because the potential investors estimated the power bills to be too much.

    why is Epira a failure? those who supported it must be made to explain and held accountable, or at least made to accept a mistake and apologize. who were its supporters?

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