Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco has called on the government to provide help to the poor “lifeline consumers” who are affected during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Velasco made the proposal during a high-level energy policy meeting on April 24 with the Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi ; Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Agnes Devanadera; and Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian.
“The lockdown may have skewed the definition of ‘lifeline consumers’ since most people are staying at home and consuming electricity in the households,” Velasco said in a statement.
He said most of the “lifeline consumers” belong to the poorest of the poor. These consumers are provided with subsidized rates with consumption of up to 100 kilowatt per hour every month (kWh).
The definition of “lifeline consumers” differs for every electric cooperative (EC) in the country. Several ECs have already stated that they will fully subsidize the cost for their lifeline consumers, while others could only offer partial discounts, Devanadera said during the meeting.
“A consensus was then reached that the government should see to it that ‘lifeline consumers’ up to 50KWH be given subsidy nationwide by tapping into several funds available for ECs,” Velasco said.
Velasco also noted the support provided by the energy players, specifically the ECs and distribution utilities (DUs) to the government during the current health crisis.
“Since Day One of the lockdown, ECs and DUs have supported local government units (LGUs) and provided critical support by ensuring uninterrupted power for hospitals and medical facilities primarily engaged in combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, Velasco said that planned maintenance works on power plants might be possible for “a more efficient power situation.”
In addition, Velasco inquired about the post-lockdown scenarios as it may take some time before demand for power reaches pre-ECQ levels, even after the ECQ is lifted, according to the statement issued by Velasco’s Office.
Velasco quoted Cusi and said that it is difficult to conduct maintenance work during lockdown as necessary supplies and spare parts are needed.
Cusi assured that the system could handle any unforced outages.
“As for post-lockdown, the government expects some difficulties, thus there is a need to give assistance to the energy stakeholders now to prepare for post-lockdown scenarios,” Velasco said.