President Rodrigo Dueterte has signed the controversial franchise bill of Solar Para Sa Bayan Corporation, granting the solar firm a nationwide electrification franchise.
This is owned by 25-year old Leandro Leviste, son of former senator and now Antique Rep. Loren Legarda.
Republic Act 11357 titled “An Act Granting Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation a Franchise, etc.” was enacted into law on July 31 despite disapproval of other electric cooperatives.
The 25-year legislative franchise will allow SPSB to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and minigrid systems.
With this, the distribution firm aims to electrify remote areas in the country.
The decision comes amid disapproval from industry practitioners. In a previous joint media briefing, the group released a statement that the bill, now newly passed law, runs against the goal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.
“We are deeply troubled and alarmed by HB 8179 because it effectively grants a monopoly and exempts one private company from the rules of competition and oversight provided under EPIRA and the RE (Renewable Energy) Act,” the joint statement read.
The statement was from members of the Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA), Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca), Organization Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), Center for Renewable Energy and Science & Technology (CREST), Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP), and Confederation of Solar Developers in the Philippines (CSDP)
The group added that this will allow SPSB to monopolize the whole electric power chain, without limitations to the capacity of the systems it can install or cover.
“In fact, HB 8179 grants the right to access any transmission or distribution system without any reciprocal obligation on its part, specifically compliance to existing and relevant laws and rules. It is noteworthy to cite that no franchise obligation, during its franchise term, is imposed upon Solar Para sa Bayan to ensure full electrification for all,” the joint statement read.
In addition, lawmakers also cited “clear violations” of the law when it earned 16 votes from the Senate.
Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed that SPSB doesn’t need a franchise bill since it is involved in power generation.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Energy Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also promised to probe whether SPSB needs a franchise or if the firm can just simply join the Qualified Third Party (QTP) Program of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“Ito ang pinag-aaralan namin ng mabuti dahil itong ino-offer, bagong tech ito. Pag-aaralan pa kung kelangan ng franchise o pwede na pumasok sa existing ito ang Qualified Third Party (We are carefully looking into this since it offers a new technology. We will determine if a franchise is necessary or the firm could just participate into the existing mechanism of the Qualified Third Party program),” Gatchalian said..
Earlier, the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (PHILRECA) conducted a site visit in selected municipalities of Occidental Mindoro and discovered that power outages are still frequent in the area.
“How can Leviste’s company provide better services at lower costs on a national scope when it cannot meet the promises it made to Paluan and Cabra Island in Lubang , Mindoro Occidental?,” the association concluded in their report.