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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Workers picket Meralco vs. high electricity rates

Workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed Manila Electric Co.’s office today in Pasig to condemn the increase in electricity rates this month, saying the Aquino government should stop Meralco and its generation sources from further increasing the highest power rates in Asia and increase instead the country’s wage levels, which is one of the lowest in the world.

The generation charge for Meralco, the countrys’ largest power distributor will be up this month by P0.44 per kilowatt-hour. The generation charge comprises around 60% of the average electric bill.

In October, Meralco power rates also increased by as much as P0.1419 per kilowatt-hour due to higher generation charge also.

These hikes would mean a P58.19 hike for consumers using up to 100 kWh, P116.38 for 200 kWh users, P174.57 for 300kWh users, and so on.

“We condemn the Aquino government for allowing these huge profit-greedy corporations to further siphon the meager income of workers and people by extending the implementation of Epira. Rates have only doubled since Epira was implemented,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

Prior to the latest rate hikes, KMU said more than 10% of the monthly income of a minimum wage earner in the National Capital Region goes to paying electricity bills.

“Filipino workers are burdened by First-World electricity rates and prices and Third-World wages. A P58.19 or P116.38 increase in electricity bills for two months is too much of a burden for workers earning the minimum wage and those earning less,” said Soluta.

KMU said this increase will further lessen the real value of workers’ wages in the country, already one of the lowest in the world.

An August 2011 study released by the UBS (formerly Union Bank of Switzerland) showed that in a survey of 72 cities, the wage level in Manila is second to the lowest, which is Mumbai, India. It also ranked Manila third to the lowest in terms of domestic purchasing power.

“Because of the rising prices of basic goods and services brought about by oil price hikes, toll fee hikes and now electricity rate hikes, we expect hunger and poverty to worsen among workers,” he said.

The two recent Social Weather Stations surveys revealed that the workers and people are indeed getting hungrier and poorer. The survey released last month showed that hunger rose by 6.4 percent fromMarch, the highest under the Aquino government, while a survey released only this week revealed that self-rated poverty has increased to 52 percent from 49 percent registered in June.

“We demand from the Aquino government control of the prices of basic commodities and services. We demand that the Aquino government grant the significant wage hike workers urgently need,” Soluta said.

KMU has been calling for the approval of the P125 Wage Hike Bill filed in congress. Roger Soluta, KMU Secretary General

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