Bill for cheaper power rates gets bicam nod


Posted at Mar 07 2019 06:29 PM

MANILA - A measure seeking to spare consumers from subsidizing government debt via added electricity charges has inched closer to approval after the bicameral conference committee approved the bill, a lawmaker confirmed Thursday. 

The Murang Kuryente bill aims to tap a portion of the Malampaya fund to pay for debt incurred by the National Power Corporation (Napocor), which is currently being passed on to consumers' monthly through the "universal charge."

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of Senate energy committee, said the proposal may trim consumers' monthly electricity charge by as much as P1 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

"Approved na sa bicam... [M]alaking bagay ito. Almost P1 ang matitipid ng ating consumers at para sa ordinary consumers, 'yung mga kumukonsumo ng 200 kwh per month, almost P170 ang matitipid niya kada buwan. More or less lumalabas almost 4 kilos of rice 'yung matitipid ng isang ordinaryong pamilya," Gatchalian, principal author of the bill, said in an interview. 

(It has been approved in the bicam... This is a huge thing. Consumers can save up to P1 [per kWh], and for ordinary consumers, those consuming 200 kWh a month can save up to P170. More or less that's equivalent to 4 kilos of rice.)

Gatchalian said only a portion of the Malampaya fund will be utilized for debt payments and the rest will be allocated for "exploration of energy resources."

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who chairs the House energy committee, said the current balance of the Malampaya fund is pegged at P208 billion. 

"There’s a balance of P208 billion, so it’s been used kasi before for other projects not energy-related. So we came to a consensus na para deretso mag-benefit ang taong bayan, gamitin nating pangbayad sa utang ng universal charge na china-charge sa ating bill, sa kuryente, mabawasan po," Velasco noted. 

(There's a balance of P208 billion, and it's been used before for other projects not energy-related. So we came to a consensus that for the people to directly benefit, use it to pay off debt which is currently being charged in the bill as the universal charge to help reduce [consumers'] monthly bill.)

The Malampaya fund, sourced from the Malampaya gas project in Palawan, was envisioned to be used primarily for energy-related projects. 

Gatchalian said an estimated 16 million Filipino households will benefit when the bill becomes a law. 

After the bicameral committee approval, the bill will go through ratification in both houses of Congress before being submitted to the President for signature.