By Mario Casayuran
Millions of consumers may soon look forward to lower electricity bills after the Senate approved on third and final reading a bill authorizing the use of the P207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay off the stranded contract costs and stranded debt of the State-owned National Power Corporation (Napocor).
This came after lawmakers leave the halls of Congress starting today for a three-month mid-term election recess.
With the approval of Senate Bill1950 (SB 1950), or the Murang Kuryente Act, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said that Filipino consumers move much closer toward attaining lower electricity rates and, at the same time, providing them with significant savings.
“The approval of Murang Kuryente Act in the Senate is a victory for power consumers, who have long been made to share the burden of paying Napocor’s debts through the universal charge for stranded debts and stranded contract costs incorporated in the monthly electricity bill,” he said.
Gatchalian is chairman of the Senate energy committee, sponsored the bill. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto is the author of the bill.
“It is high time for the Filipino people to receive tangible benefits from the Malampaya Fund. With the approval of this measure, the government share realized from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project will end up lowering retail power rates for millions of consumers across the country,” he said.
The Murang Kuryente Act seeks to use the Malampaya Fund – accrued from the net profit share earned by the government from the operation of the Malampaya Natural Gas Project in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) – for the payment of Napocor’s stranded contract costs and stranded debts.
Up to now, the P207-billion fund, which was initially intended to fund the exploration, development, and exploitation of energy resources, has remained largely unused since 2001, Gatchalian pointed out.
He asserted that the bill would help lower electricity rates and provide significant consumer savings for Filipinos.
For a household consuming 200 kilowatt hours per month, Gatchalian said this would result in savings of P169.48 per month or P2,033.76 per year.
He pointed out that households may use the P169.48 in savings to buy additional two to three additional kilos of rice per month or roughly a sack of rice per year.
He allayed fears of fund disbursement abuses should the bill be approved, saying that he has placed several safeguards for its use.
Gatchalian explained that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) may only tap the fund after it has already applied the collections from its different sources of revenue.
He said the funds to be used for the power debt payment servicing would be allocated through the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget).
Once the obligations have been fully paid, Gatchalian said the remaining funds would be used to pay missionary electrification and environmental charges as well as the feed-in-tariff allowance.