Sen. Tulfo wants list of electric coop owners, bosses amid alleged links to politicians

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2022 07:46 PM

 A lineman works on an electric post at the Katuparan housing project in Vitas, Tondo Manila on July 7, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
A lineman works on an electric post at the Katuparan housing project in Vitas, Tondo Manila on July 7, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Sen. Raffy Tulfo on Wednesday directed Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla to submit the full list of electric cooperative owners and officials amid reports that many of whom are linked to politicians.

The Senate Committee on Energy, helmed by Tulfo, held its first hearing, investigating the persistent power interruptions across the country.

“Alamin kung sino-sino ang mga pulitiko ang nagma-may-ari o kamag-anak nitong mga electric cooperatives sa iba’t ibang probinsya. Sila kasi ang dahilan ng sakit sa ulo, kung bakit nagkakaroon ng brownout," Tulfo said.

"'Pag nagreklamo yung taumbayan, pupunta sa kanila, walang ginagawang aksyon ang mga kooperatiba dahil ang kanilang mga padrino ay matataas na opisyales ng probinsya,” he added.

Tulfo asked the Department of Energy (DOE) to address the supposedly daily power interruptions in provincial areas.

“To add insult to injury, palagi brownout. Pagdating sa singilan, ang taas ng bill sa kuryente. At kapag hindi nakabayad on time, pinuputulan agad… Please, please, please do something about it... I assure you, hangga’t hindi po naa-accomplish at hindi po nasusunod ang taumbayan, makakarinig po kayo sa akin,” he said.

Asked by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri if there is a need to amend the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) which was enacted into law in 2001, Lotilla answered in the affirmative.

As for the specifics, Lotilla said that he would need to review the entire law again especially since he has yet to have an undersecretary and assistant secretary at the DOE.

For Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the government must require distribution facilities to have a “standardized format” in their electric billing statement.

“Nakikita natin ang generation charges, transmission charges, system loss. One look lang, madaling makita, pati yung mga taxes na binabayaran. Kasi ngayon, ang nakikita ko, meron nang VAT na binabayaran na incorporate bago ma-determine yung total bill amount, tapos papatawan pa ng VAT yung total bill amount,” Pimentel said.

Consumers today also pay for “missionary charges” and a number of subsidies, Pimentel noted

“Grabe naman itong ang daming nakatagong subsidies on charges, as well on tax,” he said.

Lotilla promised to discuss the matter with Pimentel and other senators.

“This is actually part of the EPIRA reform that Congress provided for, Mr. Senator (Pimentel). But we can continue to adjust that. As to VAT on VAT, this is again a congressional decision, as implemented by the Bureau of Internal Revenue… We would have to be guided by you if we dispense with this because that means also lesser tax collection to support the national budget,” Lotilla said.

Sen. Nancy Binay meantime expressed her concern about the country’s energy supply by next year, citing previous Senate hearings where Energy officials have underlined the limited resources of the country.

But for Lotilla, the power situation is likely to get better, considering that we are now in “cooler months.”

"My rule of thumb is for every one degree difference, it's a deduction [in consumption] of 100 megawatts. So, as we go into the cooler months, our reserves also go higher," he said.

The situation during summer months, however, would be a concern, the DOE chief said.

“But for the summer months, I have to tell you that I'm beginning to have concerns about that. And we will do our best precisely to address stranded power out there,” he said.

Lotilla said the situation would be more stable if the country would have more transmissions and bigger energy resources.

The government, he said, continues to explore the use of renewable energies like wind and solar. Although, all efforts and process that they need to follow also take time.

Sourcing energy from ocean waves is also ideal but requires a lot of budget, Lotilla said.

“The levelized costs of installing those at this time are still high, unlike solar and wind, that the costs have gone down. So, we hope that with more massive, global use and further research, that will in time, the cost will also go down,” he said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian meantime raised the issue of Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) which now has two general managers – one assigned by the group itself, and another designated by the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

"BENECO is a well-run cooperative, one of the lowest power rates, a triple A, green cooperative. Then Metro Manila, in NEA, sent their own GM to take over… The end result, nagkagulo doon,” Gatchalian said.

Interviewed after the hearing, Lotilla shared that he has already instructed the NEA to provide the information requested by senators.

RELATED VIDEO

Watch more News on iWantTFC