Gatchalian to Congress: Pass energy reforms to ease dissatisfied consumers

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Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is calling on Congress to fast track the  passage of reforms in the energy sector to help relieve consumers’ dissatisfaction on the prevailing high electricity rates in the country.

This comes after a recent survey by Pulse Asia that showed 84 percent of the respondent in Metro Manila were not satisfied with the rates of electricity distributed by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

The survey also showed 66 percent of the consumers were not pleased with the cost of electricity all over the Philippines, with 88 percent welcome to the idea of having new electric service providers.

“The people need immediate respite from all these back-breaking commodity price increases, especially when it comes to their monthly electricity bills,” said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy.

“The government must act quickly to institute pro-consumer reforms that will produce energy savings for Filipino households,” Gatchalian added.

Gatchalian attributed the high electricity rates of the country to three factors: ineffective bureaucratic policies that drive away investors; lack of competition and transparency in the power supply agreements; and the rising contract costs and pending debt left by National Power Corporation (Napocor).

According to Gatchalian, Congress should quickly implement the three energy-related measures to resolve these issues. The said measures are Senate Bill 1439 or the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act of 2017; Murang Kuryente Act by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto; and Senate Bill 1653 or the Competitive Selection Process (CSP) Act.

If the three measures are enacted into law, consumers would save as much as P 1.85 per kilowatt hour which could result in overall savings of P 370 per month and P 4,440 per year for a household consuming 200 kWh per month, Gatchalian said.

“I urge my colleagues in both chambers of Congress to prioritize the passage of these measures in order to provide relief to power consumers who have been burdened by exorbitantly high electricity rates for far too long,” Gatchalian said.

The EVOSS Act of 2017 aims to remove red tape in the permitting process of new power generation projects. The Senate has already approved the Act last year, but it is still pending in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Murang Kuryente Act provides for the use of the P 207-billion Malampaya Fund in order to pay the stranded contract costs and remaining debt of Napocor.

The senator is scheduled to sponsor the measure on the Senate floor on August 28.

On the other hand, the CSP Act aims to promote transparency and competition in power supply agreements by requiring all generation contracts to face open bidding.

“Through this, it would be possible to discover the real cost of electricity in order to get the lowest price for the benefit of the consumers,” he said.

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