The recent passage of the franchise bill of Solar Para Sa Bayan (SPSB) raised questions from lawmakers and industry stakeholders as they cited its “clear violations” of the law after the bill garnered 16 votes from the Senate.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the SPSB doesn’t need a franchise bill since it is involved in power generation.
Transmission and distribution are the only ones that require a franchise under the EPIRA. Solar companies don’t need to obtain a franchise to install solar panels.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also noted that the firm’s franchise might extend outside the areas provided by the bill.
SPSB is owned by Leandro Leviste, the son of Senator Loren Legarda. She abstained from voting on the bill.
“Ang masasabi ko lang (All I can say) is, the projects we have already completed out of our own merit should be able to speak for themselves, if anything. The sensitivities that have been raised have made us more conscientious that we need to earn the privilege that Congress is deciding to grant,” Leviste was quoted in a Rappler report.
“Walang kinalaman kung sino man kamag-anak ‘nino man dito,” he added.
The bill also raised questions as it passed the House after only four months.
A total of 13 provinces will be serviced by SPSB’s “non-exclusive” 25-year service to provide electricity to customers in unserved and underserved areas.
These provinces are: Aurora, Batangas, Bohol, Cagayan, Camiguin, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Isabela, Masbate, Misamis Occidental, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, and Tawi-Tawi.
The Department of Energy (DOE) will be responsible for the selection of certain areas in these 13 provinces.
Under the Senate bill, the SPSB’s franchise “shall not revoke existing franchises” and “no waiver of rights from the franchised distribution utilities shall be necessary to operate” in specific areas.
SPSB might not have to ask permission from private distribution utilities (DUs) or electric cooperatives covering these areas. Asking for the approvals of electric coops and DUs was usually done under the qualified third parties (QTP) program of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
However, the Senate version of SPSB’s bill states that QTP rules would still apply, and “shall not affect the duty of the Department of Energy to promote private sector participation in the electrification.”