By: Darryl John Esguerra – 11:09 AM August 26, 2018
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday called on the swift passage of three energy reform bills amid a consumer uproar over high electricity rates in the country.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, made the call in response to a recent survey saying that 60 percent of Filipinos were dissatisfied with current electricity prices.
In a statement, the senator cited three reasons why electricity rates in the country are among the highest in the region: bureaucratic inefficiencies that drive away potential investors; the lack of competition and transparency in power supply contracting; and the rising stranded contract costs and stranded debt left behind by the National Power Corporation (Napocor).
To solve these issues, Gatchalian urged his fellow lawmakers to expedite the passage of three energy-related measures which he claimed could save consumers as much as ₱1.85 per kilowatt hour (kWh) or about ₱370 overall savings per month and ₱4,440 per year for a household consuming 200 kWh per month.
The first measure, the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act of 2017, seeks to cut red tape for new power generation projects.
Meanwhile, the Murang Kuryente Act, a measure based on a bill authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, proposes to use the ₱207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay the stranded contract costs and stranded debt of Napocor.
Gatchalian explained that since these obligations are passed on to consumers through the universal charge in the monthly electric bill, applying the fund to pay these debts could save consumers more than ₱0.55 per kWh.
Recto is set to sponsor the Murang Kuryente Act on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill No. 1653 or the Competitive Selection Process (CSP) Act seeks to foster transparency and competition in power supply contracting by requiring all generation contracts to undergo open bidding.
With the measure, which is now in the period of amendments, Gatchalian said it would be possible to “discover the real cost of electricity in order to get the lowest price for the benefit of the consumers.”
“I urge my colleagues in both chambers of Congress to prioritize the passage of these measures in order to provide relief to power consumers who have been burdened by exorbitantly high electricity rates for far too long,” Gatchalian said. /cbb