(Updated 2:38 p.m.) The Supreme Court on Monday issued an order temporarily stopping for 60 days Meralco's record-high power rate hike.
Two weeks ago, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) allowed Meralco to increase electricity rates by P4.15 per kilowatt hour in three tranches from December 2013 to March 2014.
With its Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), the court prevented the Commission from implementing its December 9, 2013 directive allowing Meralco to increase electricity rates by P4.15 per kilowatt hour in three tranches from December 2013 to March 2014.
The SC also set the hearing for oral arguments on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 2 p.m.
The ERC and Meralco were also ordered to file on or before January 8, 2013 their respective comments to the petitions received by the SC asking the High Tribunal to stop the rate hike.
Meralco claimed it was forced to buy expensive electricity from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market during the scheduled Malampaya shutdown just to meet the 2,700-megawatt deficit of the electricity peak load demand of Luzon.
The first petition
was filed by the party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers.
The second petition, on the other hand, was submitted by National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform (NASECORE), Federation of Village Association (FOVA), and Federation of Las Piñas Homeowners Association (FOLPHA).
In a text message to GMA News Online, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said "the Supreme Court has always been the final arbiter of any case brought before it especially when the issue is of national importance" but that there is a need to wait for the final ruling.
In a press briefing earlier in the day, he also said there is already an ongoing investigation on whether there was collusion among the power industry players.
"So let’s wait for that investigation proper. But also ERC, I understand, is also looking into it. So I cannot say anything other than the fact that let’s just wait for the results of the investigation," he said.
What about bills already paid?
The first tranche of the rate hike, however, was already included in the December 2013 electric bill Meralco sent to its customers.
Asked what will happen to the Meralco bills already paid, SC spokesperson Theodore Te said that is not covered by the TRO but he believes it will be addressed when the court decides on the case.
“As a general statement, a restraining order restores the status quo as of a specific date (today) by stopping certain acts from being done. Now as to the question on the rates already collected, that is not within the scope of our restraining order but it would probably be addressed once the court decides,” he said in a press conference.
—With reports from Andreo C. Calonzo and Kimberly Jane Tan/KG/HS, GMA News