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    Feature: Filipinos burdened with power rate hike amid livelihood inflation

    September 13, 2023 - Xinhua News Agency


      MANILA, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- The power bill will be an additional burden for Filipinos who are suffering from rising rice, vegetables, and other food prices.

      The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the largest private-sector electric distribution utility in the Philippines serving 7.7 million customers, announced last week an increase of around 0.5 pesos (0.008 U.S. dollars) per kWh in electricity rates since September.

      The abrupt surge, catching many consumers off guard, can translate to an additional 100 pesos (1.76 dollars) expense to a household consuming 200 kWh of electricity per month.

      Mariah Companero, 22, a breadwinner in a household of seven from Laguna province, south of Manila, said the rate hike "may sound small but on a larger scale, especially for high bills, it constitutes a significant addition to expenses."

      The power rate hike could further contribute to the rising inflation that rose to 5.3 percent year-on-year in August from 4.7 percent in July.

      Indeed, electricity price in the Philippines remains among the highest in Southeast Asia. In Metro Manila, the average rate is about 12 pesos (0.21 dollars) per kWh, leaving other capitals in the region far behind. The people in rural areas have to pay even higher rates though their incomes are lower.

      David Dumanaiz, 61, a tricycle driver in San Pedro town in Laguna province, is worried about the impact of the impending electricity rate on his family's monthly budget.

      "Our last month's electricity bill amounted to 5,700 pesos (roughly 100 dollars). If electricity rates continue to rise, it will disrupt our monthly budget flow," he told Xinhua.

      Meralco blamed the hike on the increasing generation cost which went up by 0.43 peso per kWh. "The weakening of the Philippine peso against the U.S. dollar is also a contributory factor because a big portion of the power producers is dollar-denominated," Meralco vice president Joe Zaldarriaga added.

      The Philippines is highly dependent on traditional coal power and large-scale transmission lines to meet its growing electricity demand. The priority on electricity supply to the cities resulted in higher electricity rates, and urban and rural inequality in electricity distribution.

      The power rate hike has prompted widespread concern among Filipino consumers, highlighting the need for prudent energy usage and sustainable solutions.

      Saving electricity is not merely an eco-friendly choice, but also helping reduce monthly bills, offering a pragmatic solution for Filipino households and businesses.

      Bryan Romero, a 24-year-old marketing specialist, told Xinhua that his family of five has adopted measures to reduce electricity use at home to save money.

      "We use the television sparingly and maximize natural light during the day instead of relying on light bulbs," Romero said. Enditem


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