By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday expressed belief that the passage of three measures aimed at introducing energy sector reforms may help appease consumers dissatisfied with the prevailing high electricity rates in the country.
“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 stressed.
The senator issued the statement following a recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia that showed 84 percent of the respondents in Metro Manila were not pleased with the cost of electricity provided by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).
The same survey showed that 66 percent of the respondents were disappointed with the cost of electricity nationwide.
Pulse Asia also revealed that 88 percent of the respondents are open to having new electric service providers.
Gatchalian explained the three primary reasons why electricity rates in the country are some of the highest across the region include the bureaucratic inefficiencies that drive away potential investors; the lack of competition and transparency in power supply contracting; and the rising stranded contract costs and stranded debt left behind by the National Power Corporation (Napocor).
Congress, he said, should expedite the passage of three energy-related measures—Senate Bill 1439 or the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act of 2017; the Murang Kuryente Act that is proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto; and Senate Bill 1653 or the Competitive Selection Process (CSP) Act—to resolve these issues.
He said doing so would help consumers save as much as P1.85 per kilowatt hour if they are enacted into law, thus resulting in overall savings of P370 per month and P4,440 per year for a household consuming 200 kWh per month.
“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 primarily seeks to cut pervasive red tape in the permitting process of new power generation projects. The Senate has approved the measure on third and final reading last year but remains pending in the House of Representatives.
Recto’s Murang Kuryente Act, meanwhile, proposes to use the P207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay the stranded contract costs and stranded debt of Napocor.
Gatchalian explained that since these obligations are passed on to consumers through the universal charge in the monthly electric bill, applying the fund to pay these debts could save consumers more than P0.55 per kWh.
The senator is scheduled to sponsor the measure on the Senate floor on Tuesday, August 28.
The CSP Act, on the other hand, seeks to foster transparency and competition in power supply contracting by requiring all generation contracts to undergo open bidding. The measure is currently in the period of amendments.
“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.