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Bizmen slam
‘energy cartel’

BY JUANCHO GALLARDE

Businessmen in Negros Oriental lambasted what they call an energy cartel by big players who are controlling the market.

Roy Cang of Bethel Guest House described as “horrible and very cruel” his experience with his electric bill from February to May this year that went up by more than 25 percent against the usual rate before the privatization of the Philippine National Oil Company.

The power rate issue dominated discussions on the provincial review and assessment on the two pending petitions for salary increases conducted yesterday by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Negros Oriental.

Statistics presented by RTWPB board secretary Grace Carreon during the validation of various data, costing and prices, showed that Negros Oriental has the highest inflation rate throughout Region 7 with 4.5 percent in May this year or an increase of P1.6 percent, compared to the 2.9 percent of the same period last year.

Negros Oriental also has the highest consumer price index (CPI) of 194.4 percent higher than the CPI of the entire region which is 178.5 percent, and has the lowest purchasing power of the peso at 51 centavos only while in the region one peso is equivalent to 54 centavos.

Even the liquefied petroleum gas in Negros Oriental is P47.00 higher than the LPG in Cebu, while unleaded gasoline is also 2.6 percent higher than in Cebu.

Meanwhile, businessmen in the province have raised the suspicion that an energy cartel is operating in the region, aside from having the highest cost of arrastre in the region and the highest power cost.

Department of Trade and Industry regional director, Aster Caberte, said concerns about high power rates were brought to the attention of national agencies concerned but they have not received any reply.

On the other hand, National Economic and Development Authority regional director Marlene Rodriguez said the issue was brought to the attention of the NEDA board, pointing out that, at least, two governors have raised the same concern.

Rodriguez said it is “looking into the possibility” of amending provisions of the EPIRA law and to involve the Regional Development Council while pressure groups from the Visayas region would be too willing to rally behind the review and amendment of the law.

Present during the provincial review and assessment were RTWPB chairman Exequiel Sarcauga, Ernesto Carreon representing the labor sector and Hidelito Pascual from the management sector, and others representing a cross section of the community.*JG

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