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DPP lawmaker urges suspension of electricity hike

TAIPEI -- An opposition legislator proposed Monday that the Executive Yuan drop a planned hike in electricity rates later this year and carefully examine the mounting losses of state-owned utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower).

Legislator Chen Ou-po of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said at a news conference that fuel and electricity rates are basic components of consumer prices.

“All major daily necessities and consumer price indexes are continuing to climb, and further rate hikes will add to the misery,” Chen said.

He urged President Ma Ying-jeou to hold off on a second stage of electricity price hikes scheduled for December, following the first round of hikes in June, to help “maintain rational and reasonable consumer prices.”

The proposal has received the endorsement of colleagues Chang Ching-chung of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and Hsu Chung-hsin of the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union, Chen said, and he intends to formally submit it to the Legislature when the body begins a new session on Sept. 18.

DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei said Taipower's 2013 budget requests for overall electricity purchases, personnel costs and employee benefits were NT$15.45 billion, NT$300 million, and NT$137.19 million higher, respectively, than in 2012.

“The more it loses, the better the benefits for Taipower employees,” Chen said mockingly.

In response, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng said that if legislators have opinions on Taipower's budget, they could propose to have a discussion rather than simply call for a freeze on electricity rates.

“This is not a rational approach,” Wu said.

KMT Legislator Lin Tsang-min said the most pressing task is for the Ministry of Economic Affairs to come up with a proposal to cut the company's costs rather than asking to freeze rates.

Taipower said previously that it expects to suffer losses into next year after the government decided in early May to introduce power rate hikes in three stages, rather than all at once.

Taipower also estimated that it would lose NT$72.2 billion this year, which would push accumulated losses to NT$190.1 billion by the end of 2012.

Under the government's original rate hike plan, rates for household, commercial and industrial power users were to have gone up by an average of 16.9 percent, 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively, on May 15.

But amid criticism, it was changed to a three-stage hike, with the first 40 percent of the originally planned increase to take effect on June 10, the next 40 percent to take effect on Dec. 10, and the remaining 20 percent to not be put in place until the company streamlines its operations to the government's satisfaction.

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