INFLATION has further jumped to high levels. Only 2.9% in December 2017 (no TRAIN law yet), it became 3.4% by January 2018 (first month of TRAIN law), 3.8% in February, 5.7% in July, and now 6.4% in August 2018.
While high world oil prices and peso depreciation against the US dollar were among the important factors, it was the energy tax hikes in the TRAIN law — oil, LPG, coal, plus coverage of VAT in electricity transmission charge — that triggered and sustained the inflationary pressure.
And talking about inflation and energy prices, the recent Pulse Asia Research’s “Ulat ng Bayan Survey,” June 15-21, 2018 is among the misleading surveys that will indirectly justify higher electricity prices. How?
See two of their three questions, loaded and leading:
1. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the price of your electricity?
3. Are you in favor or not in favor of increasing the use of renewable energy in the Philippines such as energy from the sun or solar energy?
On #1, Pulse Asia did not explain to respondents that there are nine different charges in our monthly electricity bill that contribute to higher overall rate: generation charge, transmission charge, distribution charge, supply charge, system loss charge, metering charge, universal charge, feed-in-tariff (FIT) subsidies, taxes. Loaded question with an expected high answer of Dissatisfied.
On #3, another loaded question as it does not clarify that even with more solar energy, the eight different charges will remain and worse, the FIT subsidy for solar will further rise.
So the result of their survey was: Question #1, 64% dissatisfied and only 27% satisfied, 14% undecided. Question #3, 89% in favor, 9% not in favor and 2% volunteered/undecided.
Having more intermittent, unstable and unreliable solar and wind power in the national grid can lead to higher prices because of the higher need for backup power, ancillary services that are mostly oil-based, and huge batteries. This is shown in both Europe and the US where in many cases, countries and states with high reliance on wind + solar also have higher electricity prices.
Then two House bills sprang up out of nowhere. HBs 8013 and 8015 entitled “An Act Granting Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation a Franchise to Construct, Install, Establish, Operate and Maintain Distributable Power Technologies and Minigrid Systems throughout the Philippines to Improve Access to Sustainable Energy” were filed only last month, Aug. 6, and were quickly approved by the House committee on legislative franchise on Aug. 29. The committee report was approved last Sept. 3 and will go to plenary this week or next week.
This is a very anti-EPIRA bill and, hence, an attempt to legalize many illegal provisions. While all players in the generation, distribution and supply sectors comply with specific requirements of the EPIRA law, this newbie, no track record corporation wants to do anything they want — can connect anywhere, can build their own grid anywhere, can carve out to DUs franchise areas, will pay only 3% franchise tax in lieu of all taxes, exemption to universal charges, COC and local taxes.
In a position paper by the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (PhilRECA), some parts reported in BusinessWorld last Sept. 4, PhilRECA observed that:
“Solar para sa Bayan Corp. said that it could offer electricity at an equal or much lower cost compared with the ERC approved rates of ECs… Paluan was cited as an example with P8.00 per kWh. However… the company is actually charging more at P10.37 to P15.29 per kWh… such misrepresentation… that corporation could not afford to offer lower rates.”
This newbie corporation whose franchise is all ready for a congressional plenary is owned by a son of a sitting “environmentalist” senator.
To have cheaper and more stable electricity, we need more competition, less government cronyism and favoritism, and less energy taxation.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is president of Minimal Government Thinkers, a member institute of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.