Thousands of indignant consumers in the City of San Fernando are poised to launch a mass action on Friday to force the management of the San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company (SFELAPCO) to comply with the directive of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to refund some P2.4 billion in collected unapproved charges.
Dennis Bondoc, Secretariat of the Alyansa ng mga Nagmamalasakit na Fernandino (ANaFe), said more than 15,000 consumers are expected to join the “Unity and Prayer Walk” (Martsa at Panalangin) on Friday, July 28, 2023 that will start at 4pm.
The consumer-demonstrators will converge at the Pampanga High School Boulevard, Cleofer’s Building (near Aurea Subdivision), and San Jose Barangay Hall. The program venue will be at the San Fernando Poblacion in front of the CSF City Hall. The rally organizers urged participants to wear white T-shirts and to bring candles.
Bondoc said ANaFe is calling on the SFELAPCO management to put into motion a refund scheme to the 127,000 household-consumers.
“It’s high time to speak out,” according to Bondoc.
Bondoc said they had already reach out to women’s groups and other sectors and immediately formed the consumer alliance group to go after SFELAPCO. The local power distributor utility will reportedly seek legal remedies to counter the ERC decision.
ANaFe has also called on SFELAPCO to stop power rates hike.
The ERC has already warned the SFELAPCO management that its “continued refusal to comply with its decision” directing them to refund some P2.4 billion in unapproved charges, may compel them to file a criminal action against the local power distributor.
The ERC has warned SFELAPCO that it would be compelled “to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for possible filing of criminal action against the Board of Directors and Officers of SFELAPCO pursuant to Section 46 of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).”
The ERC noted that it would refer the matter to DOJ amid the continued refusal of SFELAPCO to abide by its decision last March 3, 2023. ERC Chairperson and CEO Monalisa C. Dimalanta has reiterated the decision on June 1, 2023 with finality.
ERC has directed SFELAPCO to refund “Other Charges” amounting to P654,397,381.48; and the collected generation charges amounting to P1,769,924,493.39 covering the period January 2013 to December 2022.
Caluag said the collected “Other Charges” will be returned in a one-time payment; and the collected generation charges every billing cycle for a period of one year.
SFELAPCO has 127,000 consumer-households, all of whom are awaiting a refund from the local power distributor.
SFELAPCO has admitted it implemented the Power Service Agreement with AP Renewables Inc. (APRI) without ERC’s approval. For this, SFELAPCO was also told to pay P21.6 million in fines for having violated ERC rules.
Alliance vs SFELAPCO
With no refund scheme in sight, the Alyansa ng mga Nagmamalasakit na Fernandino said it will continue to hold mass actions until SFELAPCO abide by the ERC decision to refund the said amount.
Bondoc said a signature campaign started last July 22, 2023 have already gathered more than 15,000 signatures calling on SFELAPCO to make a refund.
Bondoc was optimistic that more consumers and organizations will support their cause because the “welfare of the consumers is at stake.”
Bondoc said ANaFe wants SFELAPCO to abide by the ERC decision. The ANaFe said wants SFELAPCO to bare its plan on how to refund the collected unapproved charges. “Magbigay ng isang malinaw at makabuluhang panukala sa publiko kung paano babayaran ng SFELAPCO ang mga naturang halaga na ipinapabalik ng ERC sa mga Fernandinos,” the ANaFe said.
ANaFe noted that Pampanga province had been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses closed shop and putting thousands of Kapampangans out of jobs. “Sinalanta ng COVID-19 pandemic and buong bansa. Maraming mga Negosyo ang nagsara, marami ang nawalan ng trabaho, huminto ang pasada ng mga tricycle, jeepney at mga pangunahing transportasyon sa bansa, napuno ang mga ospital at nagsara ang mga eskuwelahan,” the ANaFe said.
“Bumagsak ang ekonomiya, maraming nagutom, maraming kapamilya natin ang binawian ng buhay, nagmistulang ghost town ang mga pamayanan. Lahat tayp ay tinamaan ng pandemyang ito, kasama ang mga Fernandino.”
Bondoc said they have invited City of San Fernando Mayor Vilma Caluag, Senator Raffy Tulfo, and the Pinuno Party List, to speak during the rally.