By Mario Casayuran
The Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) has given the green light for the amendments to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act Law (EPIRA) in order for communities to feel the benefits of hosting power generation facilities as quickly as possible.
This was revealed Saturday by Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee and co-chairman of the JCPC.
During the last JCPC hearing for the 17th Congress, both panels of the Senate and House of Representative approved Department of Energy Circulars 2018-03-005 and 2018-08-0021 that seeks to include indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples in the list of host communities, and fast track the release and use of the funds to host communities, respectively, Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian stressed the need to amend the IRR concerning benefits to host communities of the EPIRA Law to empower and to speedily give host communities the benefits mandated by law, but also to promote harmony and cooperation among the LGUs, residents, and generation companies or energy-resource developers.
“As we speak right now, the total fund for benefits for host communities in the entire country is P12 billion. As of August of last year, only P6 billion has either been utilized or allocated for use because of red tape,” he said.
Gatchalian said the fund could be used for rural electrification, development and livelihood, and rehabilitation of watershed management, health, and environmental enhancement projects.
He pointed out that these funds take years to trickle down to host communities because of the current procedure in the EPIRA IRR.
Under the present setup, generation companies (Gencos) will remit the funds to the DOE, which in turn will release the fund to host communities that will implement the projects subject to submission of various documentary requirements.
Gatchalian, also chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee, explained that said Department Circular (DC) 2018-08-0021 removes DOE from the picture and allows the generation companies to directly remit the funds to the host communities.
On the other hand, DC 2018-03-005 expands the benefits to indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples who were previously not included as beneficiaries.
Gatchalian said he believes that these twin department circulars would eliminate the prevailing red tape that complicates the process of giving the funds to the host communities.
“On behalf of the Senate, after reviewing thoroughly the proposals of the Department of Energy, we definitely want to empower and to give the benefits as quickly as possible to the LGUs,” he said.
The House of Representatives panel also joined the Senate panel in its approval of DOE’s request.