P750-M emergency fund for co-ops OKd

By Jordeene Sheex Lagare – March 8, 2018
from The Manila Times

The bicameral conference committee on energy reconciled on Wednesday conflicting provisions of a bill seeking to provide electric cooperatives (ECs) a P750-million emergency and resiliency fund.

During a hearing on Senate Bill 1461 and House Bill 7054, or the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund measures, the panel decided that the initial emergency fund for 2018 would come from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Fund, which has more than P7 billion for rehabilitation and restoration efforts.

The amount may increase or decrease in succeeding years.

“We will give [Congress the flexibility] to dictate how much will be appropriated every year,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and the bill’s principal sponsor, told reporters after the hearing.

Under the reconciled measure, the fund shall be transferred to the National Electrification Administration (NEA), instead of going through the process of disbursing money from the NDRRMC.

NEA shall receive donations, both local or international, intended to restore or rehabilitate ECs’ infrastructure damaged by force majeure, or a fortuitous event.

The bicameral committee’s go-ahead of the measure assures the country’s 121 ECs that they will have available funds they can use to restore pwer in case natural disasters strike.

“Hindi nila ipapasa sa consumers ‘yung pondo na ‘yon…(They do not pass the fund on to consumers),” Gatchalian said.

Under the current setup, ECs would borrow money to repair their facilities after a calamity strikes. That money would be passed on to their customers, including interest and amortization.

Gatchalian said this would also benefit 11 million member-consumer-owners (MCOs) nationwide, as they “will now be protected from absorbing [the]rehabilitation and reconstruction [costs]of ECs.”

Once the bicameral panel submits a report on the measure’s reconciled and approved version, the Senate would then print it in its enrolled form.

The final copy would be sent to to Malacañang, where the President either signs or vetoes it. If the latter, the bill would be returned to the Senate with a corresponding veto message.