Day of Action Against High Prices of Electricity:
Consumers strike back against record-high power rates and fossil gas
and rate hike moves of San Miguel Corporation
SEPTEMBER 29 - Consumers, communities, and groups staged protests in various parts of the Philippines against rising electricity costs, which plague Filipinos amid an economic crisis and high costs of living.
“Communities are making a stand against ridiculous electricity prices. Our authorities need to take action towards the immediate relief of Filipinos - through price control and mandating straight energy pricing, for example - and through holding to account corporations emptying consumers’ pockets,” says Gerry Arances, lead convenor of group Power for People Coalition (P4P).
Bannering a Day of Action Against High Prices of Electricity, the groups locked in on power giant San Miguel Corporation (SMC) as it celebrates its 132nd anniversary as a major culprit to consumers’ current plight.
In Batangas, hundreds participated in a motorcade in protest of efforts by SMC to build more liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, which consumers see as the precursor to even higher electric bills in the future - making it costly both to the environment and to consumers’ pockets. SMC accounts for over 14 GW of new fossil gas and LNg capacity in the national pipeline, the biggest out of all major power players.
The motorcade was joined by local organizations including Bukluran ng Mangingisda sa Batangas, Youth for Verde Island Passage (VIP), Save Sta. Clara Movement, Samahan ng Manininda sa Daungan ng Batangas, who all clamored for the use of renewables instead of expensive fuels for electricity. The use of fossil fuels such as gas and coal is identified even by generation companies as a key source of record high prices of electricity today.
“Companies like SMC always make electricity about profits. They don’t care if consumers prefer cheap energy which renewables can provide, continuing to push fossil fuels on us. They don’t care about the livelihood of fisherfolks and the environment by proposing to expand gas facilities in the country. SMC already admitted gas is the cause of high prices, but it maneuvers the situation so consumers will pay for it. And here we are, having our livelihoods killed by companies like SMC yet being asked to pay more for our electricity,” said Tom Buitizon, Chairperson of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB).
Communities and civic groups have been calling out San Miguel Corporation for continuing to promote costly, dirty fossil gas at a time when Filipinos are reeling from a cost of living crisis and intensifying climate change impacts. Joining calls for an end to SMC’s fossil gas push are Bishops, social action centers and ecology ministry directors from different parts of the country. Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of the Diocese of Kidapawan, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos, Bishop Guillermo Afable of the Diocese of Digos, and Bishop Victor Ocampo of the Diocese of Gumaca led the call.
On top of its LNG expansion, SMC is culprit to various moves that work against electricity affordability, seeking to back out from their commitment under a public bidding process of selling electricity at a straight price. SMC filed a motion before the Energy Regulatory Commission the previous month, seeking a rate hike to let consumers absorb ₱15 billion in losses from its use of gas and coal. The price adjustment seeks to let SMC change the terms of its power supply agreement (PSA) with Meralco, which committed to SMC in 2019 to give consumers a fixed price on electricity.
Worse, the groups also found out that SMC uses power supply agreements which have been outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2019 to supply power to various distribution utilities in the country.
“SMC is looking to make milking cows out of all Filipinos with its push for fossil fuels, coal and gas, which are vulnerable to price fluctuations. SMC itself conceded this by asking the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to recover its losses by passing the costs on to consumers, yet it is still driving new gas projects in Batangas and across the country. It should also be held accountable for charging exorbitant rates from consumers using nullified PSAs. The Supreme Court ruled that these PSAs should not take effect precisely because they are uncompetitive and expensive,” said Arances.
Leading the protest at San Miguel Corporation’s headquarters in Mandaluyong, Sanlakas Secretary General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa adds, “Common sense, scientific findings, and business studies have shown that renewable energy will give Filipinos a respite from high electricity prices. However, it keeps getting deferred because it does not offer the kind of profits that SMC can gain from pushing Filipinos into poverty through high electricity bills. Today’s protests show that consumers will not let them get away with their plans.”
The Day of Action is participated by consumers in other provinces such as Negros, Navotas, Leyte, and Cebu where SMC intends to build new gas and liquefied natural gas facilities.
“For power consumers here in Bacolod, electricity prices from last year to this year have shot up so much that additional costs for a household consuming 250 kWh are comparable to 25 kilos of rice, and that’s every single month. High electricity prices are sending us to dire straits, and here comes SMC still wanting to put up an LNG plant that will only make the price situation worse while doing no good for its host community. Today, we’re making clear to SMC that we want its LNG plant here and everywhere else cancelled, and that it should focus instead on clean energy which abounds in our province and throughout the country,” said Griderick Alila of Konsyumer Negros.