Is our Congress in the pocket of big business?

September 04, 2015 News

In the case of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, unfortunately, the answer to that question seems to be a resounding “yes.”

Umali, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Energy, casually announced on Wednesday that he had “disintegrated” plans to consider amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, or Epira law, because “the private sector doesn’t want to support it.”

This is the same Congressman Umali who had earlier sworn he “would not be dissuaded” from amending what he called the “anti-people, pro-corporation” Epira.

Apparently, words like “not” and “dissuaded” mean something different to the honorable chairman than they do to the rest of us, because those who registered disagreement with the move to subject the Epira law to a long-overdue reassessment reads like a list of Who’s Who among big business interests in the Philippines: The Management Association of the Philippines, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Even as he acknowledged that the Philippines has the highest electricity costs in Southeast Asia and rates that are among the top 10 highest in the world, Umali was quick to bend to the whims of those who are at least partly responsible for that, making a shameful decision that defines “anti-people, pro-corporation” even better than the damnable Epira law does.
As a weak and completely unacceptable alternative to dealing with the law that is the root cause of this country’s struggles with high power costs, Umali suggested that “three or four” separate measures addressing aspects of the electricity sector would be examined instead. This decision was supported by Department of Energy OIC Zenaida Monsada, who cited the law on renewable energy as an example – a law that just so happened to, among other things, facilitate the addition of a four centavo per kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff to the electric bill of every consumer in the Philippines.

The Epira law was a well-intentioned attempt to solve the terrible results of government mismanagement of the power sector, but it has never even come close to living up to its promise of facilitating the provision of sufficient, reliable electricity at a reasonable cost. Focusing on other, largely cosmetic measures is like trying to cure stomach cancer by putting a bandage on the patient’s foot. If Rep. Umali were not so eager to please the industry sector that directly benefits from the Epira law rather than the people suffering as a result of it – and by extension, the whole Philippine economy, even he might see the lack of logic in allowing Epira to go untouched. 

Source: The Manila Times