The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Aniban Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA) have joined the case filed against Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) by advocacy group  Power for People Coalition (P4P) before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) concerning the distribution utility’s coal power supply agreements (PSA).

FDC and AMA filed a petition for intervention which would allow them to become intervenors in the PSA applications.

“This petition for intervention shows that Meralco’s efforts to extort more from consumers through direct billing and their creative compliance with the law is now being opposed by more sectors among consumers and advocates. Even as we tackle this, Meralco still has more pending cases before the ERC, showing a pattern of abusive behavior due to its monopoly,” said Gerry Arances, P4P Convenor.

FDC was one of the groups which challenged and defeated Meralco’s purchased power adjustment (PPA) before the Supreme Court.

FDC President Rene Ofreneo said: "In national survival situations, the primary duty of providers of essential services is to ensure efficient flow of services at reasonable rates. Why is MERALCO aggravating people’s dire Covid situation by arbitrarily imposing new rates sans public consultation?”

AMA joined the petition to protect its members, whose incomes are severely affected by the billing practices of Meralco.

“Meralco's actions, which include its PSAs, severely restrict the already limited income of people in the agricultural sector. AMA as petitioner is to represent small farmers and artisanal members who are Meralco subscribers,”

said Roland Vibal, National Vice President of AMA.

The motion filed before the ERC calls out certain flaws in the PSAs of Meralco which should invalidate the agreements.

“Meralco in its PSAs did not have a certification from the Department of Energy (DOE) as required by the ERC. These PSAs are not very transparent, as they do not specify when a producer can procure from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) or other power plants. Two of the PSAs extend beyond the franchise of Meralco. In addition, the PSAs do not require Meralco to automatically reduce the contract capacity when unutilized even when it would result in lower generation charges to consumers,”

said Arances.

The clean energy advocate also pointed out the inclusion of coal in the contract capacity violates the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, Meralco’s own promise to consumers, and the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to DOE Secretary Al Cusi to promote renewable energy (RE) in the country.

“Meralco and all other DUs are obliged to provide the least cost electricity to consumers. As things stand, RE provides that least cost, but Meralco seems determined to avoid serving its consumers properly,”

said Arances.