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Computing the oligarchy’s plunder DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Computing the oligarchy’s plunder

DIE HARD III
Herman Tiu Laurel

As I continued my pencil pushing on the power plunder that has raged on for over 10 years — now with a particularly renewed ferocity in Mindanao, I realize that the P80,000 per electricity consumer I computed in my last column speaks only half the story.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (Psalm) Corp. debt today stands at $18 billion (P800 billion), despite 10 years of privatizing National Power Corp. (Napocor) assets by almost 90 percent. As it is, authorities are now in a quandary as to how to charge this to us consumers without blowing the lid on the swindle of the century. Their latest attempt, therefore, is to charge 20 percent of this to government, which, of course, means the taxpayers. As for the rest, well, the shysters at Psalm are still working with Congress on passing this on to consumers via a so-called Universal Charge. In short, they will try to make 10 million electricity customers pay for all this by hook or by crook. But that’s not all.

The other half of the story involves the oligarchs who got these $18 billion worth of Napocor assets that we as taxpayers and power consumers paid for since the state power company was established by government in 1936.

What Filipino power consumers have really been plundered of is not only P80,000 per paying customer and, to a lesser extent, per individual taxpayer (as even the consumption of candies, diapers etc. have VAT included). Because we are being made to pay for P80,000 through the various surreptitious means that Psalm is devising with the corrupt bureaucracy, including Malacañang, the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress, the Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Judiciary, the oligarchs on the other hand are already enjoying cash flow benefits and profits from collections on power generating assets they have taken over.

Since the private conglomerates now “owning” our erstwhile public assets took them over on credit, based on sovereign guarantees and guaranteed payments from consumers, we are also actually paying for those assets now in list of acquisitions. This is a classic lagaring Hapon on us as each consumer is actually going to pay double the amount at P180,000!

Some of these asset transfers — such as the national transmission grid that used to be under the National Transmission Corp. but now in the hands of the private National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, which was supposed to have brought in $4 billion for Psalm and the government — have not been paid since their turnover in January 2009.

In fact, we, the taxpayers, have had to foot the bill for Psalm’s operations to the tune of P75 billion to P85 billion each year since the state agency has had to borrow for its operational funds, with the approval of Congress.

You see, we are being cooked in our own fat while the oligarchs are fattening themselves, also on our monthly payments.

And while we are computing and discovering the mounting sums which the oligarchs and their corrupt political agents in government are plundering from the nation’s electricity consumers and taxpayers, Mindanaoans are at present beginning to feel the full force of the power swindle in their area.

“Power curtailment” of four to eight-hour brownouts regularly hit parts of Mindanao today. I have been receiving reports from our colleagues there, particularly Mr. Jojo Borja, early this week that Mindanaoans are now up in arms over the situation since the rains have not stopped and the hydro-electric plants that include the vast Agus-Pulangui complex should already be supplying enough power.

At the same time, Mindanaoans are well aware that there are four emergency power barges with Napocor that can immediately be deployed to supply emergency power there. Yet, the Department of Energy and Psalm refuse to do so, as both await the privatization of these barges by March.

Confirming Borja’s report was the appeal aired last Sunday by the Mindanao business community and the island’s 33 electric cooperatives (led by the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives) to look into the region’s power crisis. They say that it is not only due to the reduced capacity of the hydro-electric plants which have not been maintained properly but also because of the “derating” or control of other power plants in Mindanao.

The two power barges privatized to the Aboitizes in 2009 are not generating power because the electric cooperatives cannot buy from them through NGCP as the grid’s power rates are not affordable to Mindanao consumers. The ECs, thus, bear the brunt of power consumers’ anger when they pass on the generation charge from Therma Marine Corp., also of the Aboitiz Group.

Meanwhile, Malacañang, the Senate, and the House merely display their grandstanding antics in the Corona impeachment hearings.

When Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. came out with a bill against what he calls the negative typecasting of Philippine solons as crooks, I remembered asking: What was the vote of his fellow congressmen on the Electric Power Industry Reform Act? Weren’t they reported to have each received a P500,000-payola for the onerous law’s approval, as exposed by Rep. Rene Magtubo in 2001? How about the P10-million National Electrification Administration projects per congressman ordered released by Gloria Arroyo to those who voted favorably for the measure?

Another one of Gonzales’ harebrained colleagues, sadly, seconded him, saying there are many “crabs” among the public dragging the reputation of congressmen down out of envy. These legislators should instead look at themselves and see that they are the ones dragging the entire country down with their constant scrambling for huge scraps of pork and other large morsels from the national budget for themselves. We challenge these whining solons to a face-to-face debate anytime, anywhere on who the crabs really are — the public or their ilk — so that they can be put in their proper places.

(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., on “Hocus PCOS: New proof of cheating?;” visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)

(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)


SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20120224com6.html

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