Senator wants energy projects protected

by Alena Mae S. Flores – October 17, 2016 at 11:25 pm

from Manila Standard Today

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian plans to file a bill declaring energy proposals as projects of national significance.

“That’s one of the bills that will be filed. In that bill, by declaring projects of national significance will give prioritization to certain power-related projects,” Gatchalian told reporters.

Gatchalian, who heads the Senate Committee on Energy, said the bill would hopefully shorten the permit process, which has become an important concern among local and foreign investors.

“A concrete example is permitting, we may put a timeframe. We will compel the LGUs (local government units), different departments to cut the requirements of the permits and put a timetable on the permit,” Gatchalian said.

He said the bill would also put pressure on LGUs to get their act together.

“We will put pressure on LGU or LGU groups to move… So i think that is one of the features of the projects of national significance,” he said.

Gatchalian said the bill might also include a one-stop-shop to address the concerns of investors in the power sector.

“This needs a legislative measure because we’re talking of multiple departments—Energy, Agriculture and Energy… So what we want is to really come up with a sort of one-stop-shop so they will only talk to one

agency,” he said.

Gatchalian said the bill would merely be procedural and not focus on incentives such as those already granted by the Board of Investments.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier said the department is pushing for a policy of declaring energy proposals as projects of national significance.

“Hence, they should enjoy expeditious and preferential treatment in the permitting process, should be protected from court injunctions, and be entitled to incentives, such as exemption from real property taxes and other local taxes,” Cusi said.

The department has called on both houses of Congress to declare critical energy projects of national significance since January in the wake of transmission problems in Mindanao.

Energy director Jesus Tamang earlier said such a bill would cover transmission and other energy projects and avoid land reclassification and zoning cases similar to that of the Pandacan depot.

Oil companies were forced to leave Pandacan last year after the Supreme Court upheld the City of Manila’s decision ordering the removal of the Pandacan depot due to safety concerns.

“Under this proposed law, if as energy facility is cited as projects of national significance, it can no longer be removed,” the energy official said.