Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has slammed Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi for endorsing a big power plant project owned by a Manila Electric Company (Meralco) subsidiary despite its links to a multibillion-peso overpricing scandal.
Zarate accused Cusi of putting corporate interests over consumer welfare after the Department of Energy declared an “energy project of national significance” (EPNS) the 1,200-megawatt power plant project of wholly owned Meralco subsidiary Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (Atimonan One).
The EPNS declaration may facilitate Atimonan One’s bid to have its long-delayed and controversial power supply agreement (PSA) with parent firm Meralco approved.
“It appears Secretary Cusi speaks with a forked tongue. He lulled us into believing that he could be relied upon to keep his word; and so we feel betrayed by his support for this PSA that we consider an onerous sweetheart deal between Meralco and its own subsidiary,” Zarate said in a statement Saturday (September 29).
A few months ago, Zarate said Cusi went on record that he would not endorse Atimonan One’s request for EPNS status unless Meralco agreed to subject the PSA to a Swiss Challenge.
There were no reports, however, that Meralco agreed to the condition set by Cusi.
“We find Secretary Cusi’s sudden change of heart, therefore, a very disturbing, capitulation,” Zarate said.
The Atimonan One deal is just one of seven PSAs that Meralco awarded to subsidiaries and sister companies without bidding or without undergoing the competitive selection process (CSP).
Under the CSP, distribution utilities like Meralco must get at least two offers before awarding a PSA.
The process is designed to ensure electricity will be offered to consumers at the lowest price possible.
During a congressional inquiry earlier this year, Zarate shared a report showing that power rates under the Meralco PSAs will cost P1.45 per kilowatt-hour more than what Meralco presented in its applications with the Energy Regulatory Commission.
Zarate warned that Meralco customers will pay an additional P900 billion for their electricity bills over the contracts’ 20-year duration if they push through.