Senate, House ratify Solar Para Sa Bayan franchise

By Alena Mae S. Flores – June 04, 2019 at 07:45 pm

The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on House Bill No. 8179 which grants Solar Para Sa Bayan Corp. a franchise to operate microgrids in the remote and unviable, or unserved, or underserved areas in selected provinces around the country.

Solar Para Sa Bayan is a company established by young entrepreneur Leandro Leviste, the son of Senator Loren Legarda.

“We wish to extend an olive branch to those who once opposed this bill, for us to help achieve the Department of Energy’s goal of bringing 24/7 power to every Filipino. It is time for us to join forces and work together for the common good,” Leviste said in a statement.

Leviste said the bill included several amendments such as limited scope and limited technology.

The limited scope refers to “remote and unviable, unserved, or underserved areas,” and only in selected provinces while limited technology requires the use of renewable energy technology.

The bill also subjects SBSP to regulation by the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, pursuant to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

It also includes the obligation of SBSP to provide accessible and reliable service and local employment, with financial penalties for failing to meet these obligations.

Leviste said it was the first time in history for any franchise to have an explicit provision ensuring the grantee “shall not be entitled to any government subsidy.”

Senate public services committee chair Grace Poe said, in her final speech in support of the bill, that “this is a social justice legislation to electrify the countryside, to allow the operations of solar technology and microgrids in remote, unviable, unserved, and underserved areas.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, however, manifested his objection after the final bill was approved.

“My objection is on the substantive insertion in the bicameral report that will negatively affect the power industry…the definition of the underserved area, which will now include areas where electricity services have been interrupted at least 12 times in the 12 months preceding the date of the determination,” Gatchalian said.

“To legislate a low and unfounded bar for an area to be considered underserved would be a disservice not only to the community but would be unfair to the franchised distribution utility,” Gatchalian said.