Human rights activists go to UN to dispute PNoy’s human rights claims
before international community
By Philippine UPR Watch
CEST GENEVA – Philippine human rights activists have arrived in
Geneva, Switzerland in time for the second cycle of the United
Nations’ Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The
Philippines is scheduled to be reviewed on May 29. The UPR will review
the national report of the Philippine government and measure it
against its pledges and commitments during the 1st cycle of the UPR
and when it applied for membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
Fifteen civil society groups belonging to the Philippine UPR Watch are
represented by leaders and members of mass organizations in the
Philippines while Filipino expatriates came from the United Kingdom,
United States and The Netherlands from the International Coordinating
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP).
The Philippine UPR Watch continued to vigorously lobby with the 71
countries that have signed up to question the Philippine government
with its compliance to implement the recommendations put forward by 14
countries during the first cycle of the UPR held in 2008. The group
has also been raising the government’s other unfulfilled commitments
and ignored recommendations particularly put forward by the former UN
Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.
The various Missions that the Philippine UPR Watch spoke with so far
have expressed keen interest and serious concern on the continuous
human rights violations committed by the state security forces and its
paramilitary groups including extrajudicial killings and forced
disappearances, torture, intense militarization in the farmers’ and
indigenous people communities to pave way for mining operations,
migrant and children’s rights and the curtailment of other civil and
political rights that are perpetrated alongside violations of
economic, social and cultural rights.
Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, co-head of Philippine UPR
Watch, said that under the administration of President Benigno Simeon
C. Aquino III, the human rights situation in the country has not
essentially improved. The human rights violations committed by the
previous government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have not been
addressed and worse, it continues to occur under Aquino’s
administration as institutionalized by the government’s
counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
Hilao-Enriquez assailed the Aquino government downplaying of the human
rights cases and misleading claims of compliance to the
recommendations of the countries since the UPR meeting in 2008.
She also scored Malacanang in its reported plan to create another task
force purportedly to address the continuing violations, saying that
the victims do not need another task force on top of the multiple
others already existing. These task forces have not concretely
resolved the abuses but turned out to be passive yet inaccurate
collators of information, formal deodorizers and elegant smokescreens
for the government’s utter failure to stem impunity after all these
years, she added.
The Philippine UPR Watch delegation in Geneva is made up of Marie
Hilao-Enriquez (Karapatan), Cristina Palabay (Tanggol Bayi), Renato
Reyes (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), Atty. Edre Olalia (National Union
of Peoples’ Lawyers), Nardy Sabino (Promotion of Church People’s
Response), Garry Martinez (Migrante), Beverly Longid (Cordillera
Peoples’ Alliance), Argee Malayao (Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong
Mamamayan ng Pilipinas), Bai Ali Indayla (Kawagib/Moro Christian
People’s Alliance), Jaquiline Ruiz (Children’s Rehabilitation Center),
Melona Daclan (Defend Job Philippines), Ernan Baldomero (Hustisya),
and Rev. Fr. Jonash Joyohoy (Ramento Project for Rights Defenders).
They are joined by Dr. Angelica Gonzales (International Coordinating
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines), Melissa Roxas (Bayan-USA),
Maribel Mapanao (Campaign for Human Rights in the
Philippines-Switzerland), and two other delegates from the Campaign
for Human Rights in the Philippines-UK.
Garin believes country not ready for new Kasambahay Act, some
provisions need to be reviewed - should be grounded in reality
May 17, 2012
QUEZON CITY – According to one of the top leading advocates for the
Rights of Women and Children, Congresswoman Janette Loreto Garin (1st
District in the Province of Iloilo) House Bill 454 otherwise known as
“The Kasambahay Act” which introduces policies that govern the
household employment industry need to be studied thoroughly before
congress passes it.
Citing that certain provisions fail to acknowledge some of the
positive benefits involved in the family dynamics of a Filipino
household, Rep. Janette Loreto Garin, points out one detail as a prime
example; this is the prohibition of employing “minors” meaning any
person below eighteen (18) years of age as a domestic worker or as
referred to in the Act a “kasambahay”.
She believes that citing eighteen (18) as indeed the most reasonable
limit a young person can be permitted to work as “kasambahay” must be
established with factual evidence and it must be proven that indeed
Filipinos families are agreeable to the age limit specified in the
Rep. Janette Loreto Garin believes that by making the act of employing
a young person below 18 years of age, who may be born in poverty and
with no means of being able to go to school but capable of doing
reasonable household duties while residing in another’s home as an
unlawful act fails to recognize the realities of how majority of
Filipino households are run.
The practice of taking in high school age children between the ages of
15 to 17 into ones household has long been done by generations of
Filipinos and is still being practiced today for the opportunities and
positive advantages they provide a young person and members of his
Filipino culture allows for the nurturing of the young sometimes even
from birth up to adulthood by people other than one’s own parents.
Such is the reality of our world and taking this reality into
consideration reveal how even if one is not of one’s own blood, he or
she can still be properly cared for while learning about the
responsibilities of having household chores. Doing work that is
assigned to “kasambahays” should not be seen as a form of exploitation
nor considered child labor when requested or tasked to a young person
but viewed in a more positive light, seen as an occasion to develop
positive Filipino values that may lead to brighter prospects for the
Housed, clothed, fed, educated and paid for their contributions in
their role as “kasambahays” can be much likened to what parents of
other families (even affluent ones) give and expect from their own
children. The belief that if one does his chores well, one’s effort
will be rewarded has often proven to be a good way to teach our own
children about life skills we all need to know in the first place.
When kindness, respect and consideration exist in similar
arrangements, this proves to be beneficial to all persons involved.
Picture these real life events:
A young person who comes from a very remote and impoverished part of a
community where no real schools are established except perhaps a
four-walled room with a blackboard and no chairs and where the nearest
high school is located miles away. The young person, determined to
learn, willingly walks even barefoot to the nearest elementary or high
school under harsh weather conditions imaginable. His kind-hearted
teacher sees the child’s desire for knowledge and potential to do more
offer assistance to the family by taking in the child into her
household. Her home is a stone’s throw away from the school and she
can provide free board and lodging while the child attends school. In
return, the child helps with chores around the home and learns about
responsibility, self-reliance and inner satisfaction of living a life
that is productive and fruitful.
A well-loved “nanay” of the household brings in her child or
grandchild during the summer. The child shows an eagerness to learn
and expresses desire to go to school or to finish his studies.
However, the child’s parents can barely make ends meet with 6 other
children to consider. The grateful employers of “nanay” decide to
welcome the child into their home and send him to school. The child
studies, finishes his education while he helps around the household
perhaps running simple errands, assisting others in the household and
basically learning how to live life with diligence, self-discipline, a
sense of responsibility and dignity.
There is nothing shameful or unlawful about working ones way through
school. This has long been recognized as a way to a better life away
from hunger, poverty and deprivation. It is seen as a gesture of
kindness and generosity that opens doors for everyone involved. When a
person is taught about responsibilities, diligence, even
self-discipline the person is given a chance to receive proper
education, is provided with a good opportunity to start ahead and
forge his way into realizing his own dreams. He gains self-confidence
and in turn his self-esteem grows a hundredfold.
Real life situations show that living with others as “kasambahays”
help build character and add to ones sense of belonging. The young
person is led away from a life of crime and vices, away from
temptation and boredom. He is motivated to do well by others and
inspired to look towards the future. The arrangement being
advantageous to both, provide the generous employers with a household
that is well run and a chance to give back and share their own
blessings to others. For both sides, hope for a better and peaceful
Circumstances may vary but the bottom line is the same, by calling the
act of welcoming a young person into one’s home and teaching him or
her how to be responsible citizens and allowing him or her to “earn
her keep” as an “unlawful act” deprives that person from experiencing
life and all its wonderful possibilities.
By refusing the acknowledge the current situation in our Filipino
household, the sweeping generalization in some of the provisions in
the “Kasambahay Act” might in the long run prove to be more harmful
rather than beneficial.
Parents who want these opportunities for their children are forced to
hide the truth. Some children will be forced to lie about their ages
and will remain misinformed, unfulfilled and uneducated. Those who are
bolder than others will be tempted to attempt risky behaviors
resulting in unwanted and unplanned pregnancies or led to a world
filled with vices such as gambling, alcoholism, sex, and drug use.
“Do we really want this for our youth? Do we want them to dwell on
lost opportunities that will forever hold them down into a life of
servitude and poverty or should we strive to be more proactive and
pragmatic in order to assure them of a good future?” asks Rep. Janette
She further warns that if congress is not careful about what it passes
into law, the consequences will be many. First thing to do, Rep.
Janette Loreto Garin suggests in order to remedy the situation, is to
ask. Ask the majority of Filipinos if this is indeed what they want
for their families, if this is indeed a change they want for
themselves. Let us ask first and after such only then can we finally
Congresswoman Janette Loreto Garin clarifies, “I welcome the passage
of a bill that advocates for the welfare of our “kasambahays” and by
extension their families. In fact, I truly believe that “kasambahays”
hold a well-respected position in a Filipino household. They are
already members that make up a Filipino family. The role of
“kasambahays” is given to those who not only exhibit the skills to do
their duties but possess the dignity and integrity expected of anyone.
Therefore, a thoroughly studied and properly researched bill that
benefits and protects them is expected of us. Most have “kasambahays”
in their households – their ages should not prevent them from being
welcomed into our homes.”
Because of mining ops, Lake Bito in Leyte turns brown
By ALYANSA TIGIL MINA
MACARTHUR, Leyte – At 7:00 o’clock in the morning last Saturday,
fishermen in Lake Bito, Brgy. Villa Imelda fell down on their knees
after seeing that the lake that provides livelihood for them turned
brown like a 3 in 1 coffee. This was after Nicua mine operations
opened their settling pond where silt flowed straight to the lake.
“We saw right in front of us how the mine waste muddles up with our
water. We were caught in shock. The water runs fast from the mining
site to Pangunawan Creek to Lake Bito. The lake now looks dead” said
Jesus Cabias, president of Unahin Lagi ang Diyos - Bito Lake
Fisherfolks Association (UNLAD-BLFA).
The incident happened after Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR)
Region VIII almost cleared NICUA mining company for the fish kill
incident last April despite traces of oil and grease in the lake
water. Following the fish skill that cause the death of more than 22
tons of tilapia, the community decided to block mining barges last
“Now, we no longer need any test. Just the mere sight of the lake is
horrifying. They just have to come here, smell the water and feel it.
We are just controlling our emotion at this time; people are crying
out of frustration, we are angry. The fish kill and this is very hard
for us because this is about our livelihood, our life,” Cabias added.
For his part, Fr. Edwin Perito, Social Action Center Director of the
Archdiocese of Palo, said that 'the Catholic Church's position is
clear – it is to preserve the integrity of creation – thus, protecting
the environment and the people who depend on its bounties.'
'The basic right of the villagers to survive is being trampled down,
what the mining company is doing is very unchristian, the rights to
food and to live are not respected. We will continue supporting the
struggle of the faithful until they succeed,' said Fr. Perito.
“This is a grave offense to people and to the environment,” said
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
“MacArthur magnetite mining is a clear threat to food security wherein
fishery industry in Lake Bito is at stake as well as rice production
in the area,’ he added.
The Aquino administration must not delay anymore its new mining
policy. Mine catastrophe like this in Lake Bito adds to the growing
evidence that there is no life in mining". Garganera added that Aquino
must distinguish himself from the previous government, whose mining
legacy is still impacting negatively to Filipinos.
Garganera claimed that magnetite mining in prime agricultural lands as
well as in other areas such as in coastlines and offshore should be
stopped considering the present threats of climate change and
‘The Mining Act of 1995 is not clear on the protection of our
agricultural areas – mining is being permitted adjacent to productive
farms or within ricefields. It gives mining companies full right over
our water resources,’ claimed Garganera.
In a phone interview, Provincial Fisheries Officer Jose Siervo said
that they will do their best to send an investigation team within the
day to look over the matter.
Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and
their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations
who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the
Save Lake Bito!
Protect the people’s source of food and livelihood, not mining!
By Eastern Visayas Ecumenical Forum
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it
abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the
people with grain, for so you have ordained it.” Psalm 65:9
TACLOBAN CITY –
Livelihood and food for the people of VillaImelda MacArthur,
Leyte and its neighboring villages are the ones brought about by
Lake Bito. It
sustains the lives of almost 90% of the Villa Imelda populace.
When the fish kill
occurred last March 14, 2012, the income of the people were suddenly
paralyzed, because, not just that there had been a fish kill, there
also had been a scare on the buyers, in eating the fish catch, with
the fear of acquiring capillarasis, which is an ailment said to be
seen on the dead tilapias.
particularly the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Bureau of
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have issued statements over the
tri-media with the confirmation from the local government of Mac
Arthur, Leyte that the identified causes of fish kill were the
over-crowding of fish that resulted to the depletion of dissolved
oxygen on the lake, the presence of the Capillaraphilippinensis and
the improper waste disposal of the local residents and the neighboring
residents of Brgy Imelda and the other affected barangays contended
that the magnetite or black sand mining operation which is only less
that 100 meters away from Lake Bito was the cause of the fish kill.
This was further substantiated by the circumstantial evidences that
would implicate the mining operation to such dreadful incidence when
the dike that separates the mine tailing pond from the entrance of the
lake collapsed with the allegedly crude/oil spill that back flows to
The findings of the
ocular investigation by the EVEF during the conduct of its
Environmental Investigative Mission, and the result of the independent
investigation conducted by the Visayas State University which was
reported to the constituents of Barangay Villa Imelda last May 5, 2012
that, the mining site is three meters elevated from the lake, supports
respectively to the people’s claim that the back flow of the water
from the mining site could possibly be the cause of the fish kill
which recorded to 22 tons of tilapia or amounted to 1.87 million pesos
of loss from their income.
The entry of the
contaminated water from the mining site to the lake, the use of
chemicals, the dredging and suctioning activities were considered as
the possible causes of the fish kill. The representative from BFAR 8
had expressed in an interview that the possible contribution of mining
as to the cause of the fish kill can never be repudiated until the
result of the scientific investigation through the water analysis
would prove to the contrary.
Moreover, to absolve
the Nicua Mining Corporation (NMC) from any liability relative to the
fish kill incidence, through the approval of the Municipal Mayor
without due consultation to the affected barangay, the latter
conducted dredging activity to allegedly show their social
responsibility to the community. That on April 29, 2012 three dredging
barges of NMC entered into the lake that caused the increase of
turbidity of the water instead of rehabilitating it.
Was it, indeed,
dredging or mining? Such act of dredging for the purpose of
rehabilitating the lake has marred the situation considering the fact
that based on some studies and researches conducted, magnetite mining
utilizes dredging method that would result to the changes in the
turbidity of the water, and that mine wastes and dredged spoils cause
the death of benthic animals. Aside from the high grade magnetite
deposits from the lake, they can freely extract it from there in the
guise of dredging as part of the rehabilitation process. Further, the
Municipal Mayor of Mac Arthur, Leyte even shared to the EVEF
Environmental Investigative Mission Team in their visit to his office
that, they will rehabilitate the lake and develop it into an
eco-tourism area to encourage local and foreign tourists to visit the
EVEF reiterates “the
appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one
cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether
living or inanimate – animals, plants, the natural elements – simply
as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs at the expense of
the environmental destruction and economic dislocation of the people
in the affected villages. On the contrary, one must take into account
the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered
system, which is precisely the cosmos.” EVEF further affirms that,
”the misuse of the world's resources or appropriation of them to
foreign corporations betrays the gift of creation since ‘whatever
belongs to God belongs to all’."
Due to the inaction of
the concerned agencies of the government, particularly the LGU of Mac
Arthur, Leyte to prevent the “dredging” activity of the Nicua Mining
Corporation, the residents of Villa Imelda together with the members
of UNLAD Fisherfolks Association barricaded the entrance of the lake
adjacent to the dike to manifest their resistance to the entry of the
dredging barge to the lake for its operation.
For this cause, the
residents of Barangay Villa Imelda are appealing to the people of Mac
Arthur, Leyte, individuals and organizations, church and government
agencies to be with them in their struggle to protect Lake Bito by
exposing to the public the real situation and by conducting a thorough
scientific investigation so as to arrive to a more precise findings as
to the cause of fish kill, and consequently, to provide viable
solution to the problem.
“Let us help save
the source of food and livelihood of the people of Mac Arthur, Leyte!
Let us protect our environment! Save Lake Bito, No to mining! No to
corporate plunder of our natural resources“, EVEF concluded.
Ten ordinary women
with remarkable achievements awarded
By VIGIE BENOSA-LLORIN
QUEZON CITY –
Despite scarcity of resources and amid challenging conditions, ten
women strived to engage in laudable projects that improved the lives
of other women and girls in their communities. These ordinary women
were given recognition for their remarkable achievements during the
Unsung Women Heroes Awards 2012 held 19 April 2012.
A yearly event
spearheaded by Soroptimist International of the Philippines Region (SIPR),
Unsung Women Heroes Awards recognizes women who made it their life’s
work to uplift the well-being of other women and girls in the
communities without fanfare but with great fervor.
Vivian Mausisa Bańados
called the “barangay mother” is available 24/7 to everyone in need.
Despite having seven children of her own to support, she found time to
enhance her capacities by attending seminars and joining the Ladies
Brigade. She has evolved into an effective health worker and trusted
Sulficia Delgado was
abandoned by her husband. With strong determination and faith in God,
she rose up to the challenge and was able to support her five
children. Equipped with the knowledge and skills she learned from the
community organizing training that she attended she founded an
organization of 80 abandoned women whose mission is to improve their
lives and to empower them.
Nerissa Aloot Gonzales
got out of prostitution and set up the organization that educates
women survivors of prostitution and helps them find other sources of
livelihood. Determined and unafraid, she became the brave face of
women survivors of prostitution that helped push for the passage of
the anti-prostitution bill in Congress.
Emma Leynes Atendido,
a farmer’s wife and sari-sari store owner in Cabanatuan City, assists
sick neighbors and helps them get hospitalization and welfare aid.
A woman from an
indigenous tribe in Bontoc,
Mary Jane Fag-Ayan Lisking exemplifies the best volunteer worker in
the Philippines. Her interest is focused on health services; primary
eye care, children’s health and childhood diseases, the blind and the
deaf-mute and serious citizens suffering from various health problems.
Eleanor de Lara
Nicolas was born with myopic degeneration or the gradual loss of
eyesight. She went completely blind in 2006 but despite her
condition, works as massage therapist and is the sole breadwinner of
the family. On top of that, she still finds time to teach catechism to
children in the nearby school.
Others find teaching
children with disabilities an impossible task, but Wilhelmina Nuestro
took up the challenge. Others may embrace the job for fabulous fee,
but Wilhelmina works only as volunteer. She finds satisfaction when
the children respond to her teachings.
Angelina M. Reyes was
voted president of the National Council of Women in Plaridel. She
spearheaded a livelihood program that helped many women become
Juliet Versoza devoted
the past twenty-one years of her life helping a community in San Jose,
Navotas City. By organizing a group of mothers, Juliet helped them
learn reading and writing. Another organization she spearheaded is the
Samahan ng Mahihirap ng Bagong Silang that raised funds and helped
improve their barangay road and provided the street lights.
chose to leave her lucrative job in US to share her expertise as a
nutritionist and dietician to her countrymen. She gives free seminars,
lectures and workshops on nutrition and healthy living. She has
written books and educational materials on healthy living and
continues her work for free so that her countrymen will attain healthy
mind, body and soul.
Paying tribute to
many selfless volunteers, working at the grassroots level and the
disadvantaged sector, SIPR Unsung Women Heroes Awards hope to inspire
other women to pursue similar paths of leadership, commitment and
creativity to make this world a better place.
Education continues to
top mayor’s agenda
By ALICE NICART, PIA Eastern
April 19, 2012
BORONGAN CITY, Eastern
Samar – San Julian Mayor, George N. Erroba has again found inner joy
as a person, knowing that in years, he has helped in the education of
his least fortunate constituents.
In a pep talk, Erroba
revealed that as Mayor, it has always been his dream to educate the
children coming from the 16 different barangays of his town, knowing
that this is a powerful weapon in winning over poverty.
As observed by many,
in the 60’s, the 5th class San Julian town used to be a sloppy place
that children’s education took the least agendum in prioritizing
programs and projects, until came the current leadership.
took center stage in the municipal development plans such that parents
do not bother so much on the financial aspect of their children’s
education. It had been noticed that the municipal LGU has shouldered
the major expenses of the many poor children, e.g. school fees,
allowances, even providing them free transportation service to and
from the school.
Many poor pupils
coming from interior barangays used to walk the narrow trails, rain
or shine but recently, the LGU did not only give them better roads, it
also provided them a transportation service. This facility is not
only a big help to them but also a moral booster, considering that in
years, they felt government was beyond their reach.
“Yana la ine namon
kakarawat nga sugad nga tambulig,” [This is the first time that we
have availed of such LGU assistance], Mrs. Godelia Barros of barangay
Tawid proudly confirmed. As a mother of five, who works as a family
help, with her husband who decided to go on his own, Barros said her
daughters could probably have not even reached high school.
Today, at least a
number of youths have completed their secondary education which used
to be an impossible dream for many families in many poor farming
In addition, the young
Mayor further revealed that for the coming school opening some 200
elementary pupils, 200 high school students, and all Day Care children
stand to benefit LGU assistance. This is on top of a special room for
Special Children, another special room for Persons with Disabiltiies (PWD)
which is furnished with three computers.
Mayor Erroba likewise
said there are 30 units of desktop computers which are to be
distributed to central elementary schools, this is because of his
concern that the children have to be computer literates before they
enter high school.
Asked why he focuses
on education, Erroba replied that it is only one of his priorities.
Education, maybe because, during his boyhood, he said, he knew early
then, from some of his friends, how sad they were not being able to
attend school, despite their eagerness.
“That is why, since
then, I have always thought of helping the needy and deserving youths.
It might be ambitious of me, but I dream that, 25 years from now San
Julian will have a new breed of people, well-educated, productive,
self-reliant who are living in a peaceful community.
The Mindanao Power
Summit: It’s the power cartel, stupid!
By TUCP Partylist
QUEZON CITY – “It is
time for the
Mindanao power summit to call a spade a spade – the cause of the power crisis –
present and near future – is a power cartel. They are made up of six
families: Aboitiz, Lopez, Pangilinan, Ang and Cojuangco, Alcantara,
and Sy,” said Trade Union Congress Party (TUCP) Rep. Raymond Democrito
C. Mendoza. “These families have definitively carved up specific areas
of the country so that all three island grids are now in thrall of an
electricity monopsony,” explained
“The real question
that should be posed in the Mindanao power summit is: Why has
government compromised national energy policy and national energy
security to the greed of the few? Ten years after the Electric Power
Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was supposed to bring in private players
with deep pockets to invest in needed capacity, there is now a looming
undercapacity. With most of National Power Corporation (NPC) assets in
private hands, competition was expected to drive down rates but
instead there are threats of brownouts and the endless upward
spiralling of electricity rates. But instead the oligarchs and their
friends would have us believe that it is the fault of Mindanao for
trying to hold on to its policy regime of cheap hydropower,” explained
“Now we would have
their agents and apologists in high places further add to the
disinformation by blaming what is happening to Mindanao on the
Mindanaoans being “spoiled” and by convincing all that Mindanaoans
should now bite the bullet,” said Mendoza, referring to the Department
of Energy (DOE)/National Electrification Administration (NEA)-sponsored
power supply contracts between the Aboitiz-Therma Marine power barges
selling electricity at P14 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to eight (8)
contrary to the truly best intentions of Mindanao Development
Authority (MinDA) Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, the DOE would have the
Mindanao power summit transformed into a footmark in history to sweep
the inconvenient truth under the rug. By coming up with the grand plan
of forcing electric cooperatives to buy expensive diesel power from
the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine power barges, the DOE would want the
summit to legitimize the de facto power of oligarchs to control our
access to power and its resultant costs,” said Mendoza.
officials are saying let us stop trying to hold people to account for
the brownouts. Somehow they miss the point that you cannot provide a
technical answer – power barge-provided electricity – to a political
question – the cartelization of the power industry. We must definitely
demand accountability for those bringing up our power rates so that we
are now the highest in Asia while not investing in additional capacity
to prevent power shortages,” said Mendoza.
TUCP points out that
these families frequently control the industry through the vertical
integration of the power production and electricity distribution
functions. Power is generated by the Aboitiz group and sold to the
Aboitiz-held Davao Light and Power and Visayas Electric Corporation.
In like manner, Pangilinan-owned plants sell power to the Pangilinan-owned
MERALCO to distribute. “So within the areas carved out by each
oligarch, there is no competition at all and instead we have
“sweetheart deals” which drive rates up between the generator and the
distributor,” said Mendoza.
“TUCP predicts that
the power crisis will extend to Visayas and
Mindanao because it is not in the interest of the power cartel to
build additional capacity. They will wait fully knowing that growing
demand will bring about a shortage in supply. Then they will step in
pretending to be a white knight with expensive stop-gap measures based
on coal or bunker fuel,” explained Mendoza.
“The Board of
Investments (BOI) has now moved to remove tax holidays from those
endeavouring to put in new fossil fuel baseload plants. We believe
that this move was lobbied for by the power cartel. It means that the
mobilization costs for new players will be so prohibitive that it will
discourage them from coming in. Also, the six families are signalling
that if new players want to come in, they must partner only with one
of the cartel,” said
“They are tinkering around with our tax laws and customs codes to rob
our consumers and workers,” he said.
TUCP explained that
the removal of tax holidays will bring up the cost of existing coal
plants by an additional P280 million annually which will be borne by
workers and consumers as part of the pass-through charges of the
generating plants. Because there will be no real competition in the
generating sector, the bias will be to rely on building additional
coal plants which will further bring the costs of tariffs up. TUCP and
the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) have jointly
warned that the
now charges the fourth highest power rates in the world which may
drive investors away.
“The President – if
the DOE Secretary does not have the will to do it – can immediately
order the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to reform the rate-making
formula known as performance-based ratemaking so as to moderate the
overly generous rates of return we allow the cartel,” explained
Mendoza. TUCP pointed out that some generating corporations are making
over 50% return on rate base and siphoning their respective earnings
to stock dispersal, dividends, bonuses, foreign expansion or
diversification instead of investing in additional capacity. TUCP also
lamented that the rate of return is based not on the investment cost
of the plant but on the replacement cost which may be twice or thrice
that of the original cost of plant.
“TUCP will also
introduce legislation to once more bring down power costs by
classifying the power generation sector as a utility under the Public
Utility Law. That way we can provide a cap of 12% return on
investments,” said Mendoza. TUCP will also introduce legislation to
compel the power generation corporations to divest up to 30% of their
shares to individual stakeholders to ensure greater public ownership.
“We know that aside from democratizing the ownership, spreading the
gains, it will also create a greater element of transparency in their
books and stockholders meetings and discourage ‘sweetheart deals’”,