By Ellson Quismorio
Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate is prodding the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the reasons behind the huge P3.5-billion jump in missionary subsidies in the MIMAROPA area from 2016 to 2017.
“This is a disturbing average increase of 160 percent for the MIMAROPA area, increasing from P2.21 billion in 2016 to P5.75 billion in 2017, despite the average increase in electricity consumption of only 6 percent,” the Makabayan Bloc congressman said in his letter to Director Mario Marasigan of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau of the DOE.
Zarate said he wrote the agencies on the matter last March and it’s about time that they address it.
He asked the COA to be extra vigilant on the issue, claiming that “billions of charges are being passed on to consumers just for the benefit of unscrupulous individuals and power corporations.”
“In the off-grid islands not connected to the national grid, most of the power generation use expensive diesel and bunker fuel that costs P12.00 to P15.00 per kilowatt hour (kWh). The island communities cannot afford to pay this,” the Davao-based solon said.
He also asked DOE Director Marasigan to explain the big increases in many islands that were based on the Missionary Electrification Development Plan for 2016 to 2020 that was prepared by the DOE.
According to Zarate, missionary subsidy in Palawan increased by 105 percent in one year from P536 million in 2016 to P1.096 billion in 2017. A further increase of P1.766 billion took place in 2018 while a P1.186-billion hike was enforced this year.
He said there’s a similar situation in Oriental Mindoro where the missionary subsidy almost doubled from P565 million in 2016 to P1.1 billion in 2017, only to increase again to P1.396 billion in 2018.
In Occidental Mindoro, the missionary subsidy increased by 262 percent or from P506 million in 2016 to P1.844 billion in 2017. The subsidy was posted at P1.655 billion in 2018 and P1.621 billion in 2019 despite an annual electricity use increase of only 5 to 6 percent.
The Bayan Muna solon further asked for an explanation of the missionary subsidy rates of P15.91 to P19.98 per kwh in Occidental Mindoro compared to the P5 per kwh in many islands.
“The government charges the consumers only P5.80 to P6.00 per kwh and pays the difference as missionary subsidies which it in turn charges to national electricity users of about P0.15 per kwh.
“We therefore cannot understand why the average subsidy in Marinduque is P12.44 to 22.65 per kwh and in Occidental Mindoro it is P15.91 to 19.98 per kwh,” Zarate said.
“The missionary subsidies are collected by the National Power Corp. (NPC) who then pays the various power generators. In some islands like Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Tablas, NPC is still the power generation provider where it uses mostly rental diesel generators.
These significant increases in 2017 and succeeding years are of major concern to us because all the subsidies will eventually be passed on to the electric consuming public,” he explained.
Zarate also asked the DOE for a breakdown of the subsidy recipients in Palawan, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Catanduanes, Tablas, Masbate, and other islands.
He also sought a review of current laws and regulations that have been allowing the missionary subsidy hikes in these areas; information on any active program of the DOE, NPC, NEA (National Electrification Administration), and ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) to insulate missionary subsidies from abuses and improper power supply contracting.