Senators demand thorough electrification plan from energy department

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 10 2019 08:28 PM

MANILA—Senators on Thursday questioned the Department of Energy (DOE) in connection with the lack of a national electrification plan and strategy, and the government’s national electrification program that is behind target.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate energy committee, said the energy department has failed to provide a national electrification strategy that he has sought since April 2018.

“What we need is a strategy, a roll-out plan, so that we will be guided . . . because right now it is subjective and arbitrary,” Gatchalian said during the department’s hearing for its P2.3-billion budget for 2020.

“I would like to know what happened to [the] national electrification strategy and what happened to [the] rollout plan, because that seems to be the missing link in terms of the households which are not yet electrified.”

Gatchalian reminded DOE officials, headed by energy chief Alfonso Cusi, that it was asked to submit the national strategy in April and August 2018, and August this year.

“It’s very difficult to allocate a big amount of money . . . We know there are areas that do not have electricity, but we also need to know how to reach these areas. A strategy, therefore, is important, as well as the rollout plan,” he said.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon, also lamented the slow pace of electrification in Mindanao.

“I’ve noticed that Mindanao has the lowest for the electrification program, which is disturbing for me. We know that Mindanao has the highest incidence of insurgency as well, and it goes hand in hand — they are living in abject poverty and darkness,” Zubiri said.

“Right now, 80 percent of the NPA rebels are actually IPs if you do a survey. Why? Because they live in the hinterlands, no electricity, no roads.”

Cusi explained that the problem lies not with the power supply, but issues in transmission and distribution.

“The problem in Mindanao is no longer a supply problem, it is a transmission and distribution problem. We must understand that the power, electricity are all in the hands of the private sector- distribution, transmission, generation,” Cusi said.

“Transmission is with NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines), and distribution with the utilities and cooperatives.

“The entire country is covered with franchises… we area chasing all the cooperatives and all the utilities to do their job, otherwise they give up their franchise,” he added. 

Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, pointed out that government is behind its self-imposed target of 100 percent electrification in the first 100 days of the Duterte administration, and stressed the need to catch up. 

“2016 pa pinangako ni presidente ang 100 percent electrification, first 100 days ni presidente magkakaroon tayo ng 100% [electrification]. Ano ba ang plano natin because we are behind the target, clearly,” she said.

(The president promised a 100 percent electrification. He said in his first 100 days, we would have 100 percent electrification. What’s our plan? We are behind the target, clearly.)

Cusi said the country is now 96 percent energized, from the 90.5 percent electrification rate when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.

The committee asked the DOE to submit a list of still unserved areas, with Zubiri pledging to “double the P1.2 billion” national electrification program once complied.