Palace blamed for consumers’ hardship

MANILA — Two lawmakers on Friday denounced the Aquino administration for allegedly inflicting a Lenten double whammy on the people by allowing an increase in oil and electricity prices and using the power crisis to the hilt to scare them.

“It is truly a season of penitence and hardship for the helpless Filipino consumers, with the Aquino government virtually doing nothing to avert price increases for oil products and electricity rates,” Rep. Teodoro Casiño said.

Casiño, chairman of the House committee on small business and entrepreneurship development, said President Aquino had virtually done a Pilate by washing his hands of the rate increases.

He was reacting to the Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision approving Manila Electric Co.’s petition to collect P2.30 billion in franchise taxes covering the payments it made to the localities within its franchise area.

Casiño said nobody was buying the Palace’s “Pontius Pilate argument” that it merely inherited the Mindanao power crisis and was powerless to prevent oil and electricity prices from increasing.

“The Aquino government has been in power for almost two years now. The question is, what have our officials done to correct the mistakes of the previous governments?” Casiño said.

“For the short term, what the Aquino administration can do to soften the impact on consumers is to scrap or at the very least suspend the Arroyo-era value-added tax on oil and power.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, a member of the House committee on energy, demanded that the ERC strictly monitor the implementation of the latest increase in electricity prices that would affect the residents of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“Since there is going to be differences in the rates imposed in different areas, then the power distributor [Meralco] should be clear and inform consumers why this has to happen and how much they are supposed to pay over which period of time,” Magsaysay said.

She said she supported the groups clamoring for the scrapping of the tax on power, but their efforts were pointless because the government wasn’t listening.

“Many groups, lawmakers and protesters have tried but failed to sway the government with regard to the issue on [the value-added tax],” Magsaysay said.

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