By Ben Rosario
The proposed Murang Kuryente bill is on its way to becoming a law after the House of Representatives passed the measure on third and final reading last night.
With the Senate passing its version of the bill, a bicameral conference committee was set to meet and is expected to submit a consolidated bill for ratification of the two Houses of Congress before adjournment on Friday.
With 171 congressmen voting in the affirmative and six in the negative, House Bill 8869 which promises to reduce electricity rates was passed on final reading.
HB 8869 represents a consolidation of seven different legislative proposals filed by Reps. Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City); Maximo Rodriguez (NP, Cagayan de Oro City); Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna); Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist) and the late Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol Partylist).
Co-author Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate was among the negative voters. He had aired reservations on the provision of the bill that authorizes the use of a portion of Malampaya funds, at least P123 billion of the amount, in partly paying for the stranded cost and stranded debts of the National Power Corporation.
Zarate noted that NPC still has an outstanding debt of P449 billion, which stood at P830 billion in 2001 when the government insisted on wiping it out through the passage by Congress of the Electric Power Reform Act.
He called on Congress to use its power of oversight as he pointed out that government has failed to deliver on its promise of lower cost of electricity as a result of the enactment of the EPIRA.
Zarate was among the interpellators of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco who defended the bill on the floor, being the chairman of the House Committee on Energy.
HB 8869 provides that the net national government’s share from Malampaya Fund will be remitted to a special trust fund which will be administered by Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).
During the interpellation, Velaso also pointed out that the proposal also seeks to provide substantial funds to the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) for research and exploration of indigenous energy resources that would ultimately help in lowering electricity rates.
Under the bill, the payment for NPC’s stranded debts will come from the national government’s net share from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project amounting to P123 billion.
The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) defines stranded contract costs of NPC as the “excess of the contracted cost of electricity under eligible contracts over the actual selling price of the contracted energy output of such contracts in the market.”
The stranded cost is passed on to consumers as part of the universal charges in electricity billings.
Velasco said the projected savings as a result of this measure is about P 0.574/KwH or savings of P115.00 per month for an average household consuming 200 KwH per month.