Solidarity lost

San Miguel Corp.’s energy business is increasingly becoming a bane for consumers. with complaints raised about prices and lack of social concern.

SMC Global Power Holdings Corporation, the energy unit of the conglomerate, received flak from consumer groups over its threat to terminate power supply deals with Meralco unless its rate hike petition with the Energy Regulatory Commission is granted.

Civic groups said the threat is akin to sticking a loaded gun on ERC officials’ head to obtain what it wanted.

SMCGP warns consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to expect electricity prices to rise by as much as 30 percent starting October if ERC fails to act on the company’s petition.

SMCGP is complaining about P15 billion in losses in the operations of its 1,200-megawatt Sual plant and the 1,200-megawatt Ilijan power plant, which both are the country’s biggest electricity generating plants.

The huge loss came from restrictions on supply from Malampaya and the high cost of fuel in the world market.

Consumer rights advocates said that SMC’s move “reeks of desperation to pass on their losses to consumers.”

SMC was also reminded of its P17.9 billion net income from last year up to the first quarter of 2022 as the consumer groups asserted that SMC should have anticipated the risks when entering with the agreement with Meralco.

“This is a clear hostage scenario where once again electricity consumers are victims,” the group Power for People Coalition said.

Darkness covers Sultan Kudarat
Farther down south, Sultan Kudarat has grown dark after SMC’s Petron Corp. cut off diesel supply to the states’ Small Power Utilities Group over a P1.2-billion debt that piled up.

Basilan could also lose its power supply before the end of August amid the Petron fuel supply restriction.

SPUG is under the National Power Corp., and it provides power generators to what are termed off-grid areas.

It took the Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative to again light up the province after it bought 120,000 liters of diesel fuel, and loaded it in six tanker trucks that traveled almost six hours at night for the Kalamansig Diesel Power Plant.

The P20 million spent by Sukelco for fuel will be charged as advance payment of the cooperative for its bills with SPUG.

Petron said it will refuse to deliver diesel to SPUG unless all its outstanding balance from fuel deliveries is paid.

The cooperative said the situation is a result of the sudden rise in fuel prices amid the Eastern European conflict, which ironically is the same factor that SMCGP cited in seeking rate adjustments with ERC.

Sukelco general manager Claudia Pondales brought the matter to Malacañang, seeking the “quick intervention” of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to avert the power crisis confronting their service area.

Consumer groups said that SMC should know better in demanding full profit to be realized from its businesses amid the lingering pandemic and now, the inflationary effects from the global turmoil and the desire of most economies to recover.

Have a heart was what consumer groups asked SMC in a gist.

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