by Marc Jayson Cayabyab, January 27, 2015
from Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A party-list representative on Tuesday lamented the stalled discussions of the House of Representatives on the Electric Power Reform Industry Act (Epira) after Congress prioritized the approval of the presidential emergency powers.
During the House energy committee hearing on Epira, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said the hearings for amending Epira were delayed for nine months after the Department of Energy insisted on focusing on President Benigno Aquino III’s additional authority to contract power, meant to augment the power deficit in summer this year.
“The committee deliberations were derailed for nine months because of the DOE’s move to put into priority the emergency powers,” Bello said.
The bills amending Epira is part of the priority legislation of the lower House.
The lawmaker added that Congress is now short on time to pass a legislation amending Epira because by next year, lawmakers will be busy campaigning in their districts for the next elections.
“We lost so much valuable time. We have less than a year of effective legislation,” he added.
Lawmakers were also irked that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla sent a deputy, Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada, who was unable to give the DOE’s position on amending Epira.
The panel then approved the motion of Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares to invite Petilla in the next hearings.
Colmenares, author of the bill repealing Epira, said the problem with Epira is in its philosophy of privatizing social services like electricity.
“The problem is not in its provisions but in the philosophy of Epira, the philosophy of privatization,” Colmenares said.
Committee chair Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali said Epira, in its 14 years of implementation, failed to fulfill its promise of sustainable and affordable power, citing the rotating brownouts in Mindanao and the pending power shortage in Luzon in the summer of 2015.
“I hope the outcome is pro-consumer and pro-investment. We cannot wait for another 14 years to wait for sustainable and affordable power,” Umali said.
Epira, which was implemented in 2001, seeks to reform the power sector to ensure a competitive industry for more affordable and sustainable electricity.
The law has been under fire for resulting in higher power costs due to privatization.
At least 17 bills were pending before the committee seeking to amend and repeal the Epira. Only one bill, filed by Colmenares and Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap, seeks to repeal the power reform law.