Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has warned of corruption in the power sector if Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi’s proposals for the government to get involved again in the generation and transmission of electricity would be heeded.
In an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday, Gatchalian — chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy — expressed serious reservations on the moves, which Cusi made at the committee’s hearing on the recent rotating brownouts in Luzon.
“[The reason why the government moved out of the power [sector] is because of corruption. Remember in the past, NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) was saddled with trillions of pesos of debts because of corruption and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Republic Act (RA) 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was enacted in 2001 to address the problem the senator mentioned. Under the law, NAPOCOR’s assets, such as major power plants, were privatized. The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation was then created for this purpose.
Under EPIRA also, the government retained ownership of the power transmission network with the creation of the National Transmission Corporation. The same law, however, mandated that transmission facilities be operated and and further developed by a private firm. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) was granted its congressional franchise through RA 9511 in 2008 and began operating the following year.
Despite Gatchalian’s sentiments, he credited Cusi for coming up with “very comprehensive” solutions to solve the power crisis, one of which was to review NGCP’s franchise.
“That means the Department is really putting a lot of brain power in reforming the power sector,” Gatchalian said.
Energy Usec. Felix William Fuentebella, meanwhile, elaborated that his boss’s proposals will need an act of Congress. He likewise echoed the current administration’s supposed anti-corruption stance.
“The legislators will have to design the law that will provide the needed solution. The DOE has been very transparent and the Duterte Administration does not tolerate any form of corruption,” Fuentebella, a former congressman, told reporters.
In separate statement, Cusi is thankful that the power situations being discussed again actively in order to come up with solutions.
“It has been frustrating. But at least, now we again have an opportunity to talk about this. Hopefully, this time, the Senate would appreciate what the DOE has been talking about all these years,” he pointed out.