Reading the power hike

By Herbert Vego

THE higher electricity bill we are expected to pay for this month stems from the unusual heat index that necessitates extensive use of air-conditioners and electric fans. Extreme sunlight dries up certain sources of energy — hydropower, for example – thus resulting in low power supply.

Another valid reason is our peso’s depreciation against the dollar.

But what if the “low power supply” is more contrived than real? Other sources such as coal, oil and solar are abundantly available. Solar farms are now being “cultivated” here and there. In fact, solar panels work best under intense sunlight.

The truth of the matter is that around 50% of the electricity bill we pay every month represents the “generation charge” payable to the generating stations or power plants.

The two other major components of the bill are the transmission cost and the distribution cost. The transmission cost is payable to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP); the distribution cost, to the distribution utilities (DUs), which are MORE Electric and Power Corp. in Iloilo City and Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) in Iloilo province.

It is therefore not correct to blame the “messenger” that delivers the bill, which refers to the cited distribution utilities (DUs). The DUs that bring the bill to the customers do not deserve the blame.

Under Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the DUs are not allowed to hike charges without the consent of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

According to our sources at MORE Power, the company has not increased the cost of its services – namely distribution, system and metering – even if the cost of the electricity rate for the next billing cycle will increase from P10.32 to P11.32 per kWh.

If it’s any consolation, it’s lower than the upcoming power hike in Metro Manila where Meralco will bill its customers P11.41 per kWh.

To reiterate, the generation plants get the lion’s share of the total bill. And this increase leads to higher taxes. So, shouldn’t the EPIRA law be amended to also regulate the generation cost?

Meanwhile, let us beg the power plants to please moderate your greed.



THIS time, will it ripen into law?

An absolute divorce bill (HB 9349) principally authored by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman has passed 2nd reading at the House of Representatives. It provides for mechanisms that would dissolve marriage and allow the spouses to part and marry another.

There have been similar bills filed in the past but were dropped like a hot potato in both the House and the Senate.

“We need a divorce law because these present modes may not be sufficient to give complete relief to spouses in distress,” said Lagman.

I remember that the Senate, sometime last year, also tackled a divorce bill (Senate Bill No. 2443) which would provide “protections to the parties to the marriage and its common children, amending for this purpose executive order no 209, or the family code of the Philippines.”

Will that Senate bill principally authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros be consolidated with the House bill? I hope so.

Similar bills in the past failed to override the steadfast objection of the Catholic Church.

I remember that in 2018, a similar bill breezed through the House of Representatives but got stranded because the then President Rodrigo Duterte — despite his annulled marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman – stood against allowing divorce because “it would be disadvantageous to children and to abandoned spouses.”

Even with no divorce law, however, any citizen could “happily separate” from a spouse on mere incompatibility. But how about those who want to remarry?

Christian sects that allow divorce cite one Biblical ground – unfaithfulness. Matthew 5:32 clearly states that “a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.”

It would be presumptuous for a hopeless union to continue because of a seemingly contradictory Bible verse: “What God has joined, man must not separate” (Matthew 19:6).

That would be blaming God for wrong individual decisions leading to mismatches?

Times have changed so much that even predominantly Catholic Italy and Brazil have passed their own divorce laws.