Bicol solon calls on Congress to amend 80-yr-old Public Service Act

Published July 21, 2019, 9:17 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

As the 18th Congress opens its First Regular Session on July 22,  Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte is calling on Congress to take a second look at the “antiquated” Public Service Act to protect the public interest and create a “more competitive” economy.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte

He said Commonwealth Act No. 146, otherwise known as the Public Service Act, should be amended, saying that it only benefits “a few oligarchs” and puts the public interest at the losing end.

“The quality of the daily life of every Filipino is largely affected by the efficient delivery of public services. Unlike years ago, it is only now that we often find ourselves complaining about the high prices and poor quality of public services. Such complaints grow ever into ever increasing frustration because we simply find ourselves at a dead end–under the mercy of a few oligarchs that effectively control the market,” he said.

Villafuerte noted the Commonwealth Act 146 was enacted more than 80 years ago and its provisions on business activities that are classified as public utilities or public services are “antiquated” and should be amended.

“Vast advances in technology and the modes of delivery of services require changes in our laws to be responsive to the changing times,” he stressed.

He filed House Bill 403 seeking to clarify the existing confusion between “public utility” and “public service.”

Under the proposed “New Public Service Act”, public utility is referred as “a subset of public service” and refers “to the direct transmission, distribution and delivering through a network, a commodity or service of public consequence and is a natural monopoly the operation of which must be restricted pursuant to Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.”

The bill provides that the transmission and distribution of electricity, and water works and sewerage systems shall be included in the “exclusive list of public utilities.”

Villafuerte explained that his bill seeks to formalize the transfer of functions of the Public Service Commission to various administrative agencies.

HB 403 also “seeks to give power for creating a mechanism to fix rates while considering a reasonable rate of return, and improve the administrative remedies of the agencies through the fixing of the fines and penalties,” he added.

The measure also provides that any public service corporation that shall perform, commit, or do any act or thing forbidden or prohibited or shall neglect, fail or omit to do or perform any act or thing herein to be done or performed, shall be slapped with a fine amounting to P5 million, or six to 12 years of imprisonment, or both, upon the discretion of the court.

“These proposed amendments are intended to respond to our changing concerns and give the general public better services at power prices. The idea is to protect the public interest by increasing competition, which is seen to spur innovation and create a more competitive economy,”  Villafuerte said.

The bill tasks all administrative agencies, in coordination with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Competitive Commission (PCC), and the University of the Philippines Law Center to promulgate the implementing rules ans regulations of the proposed Act within 90 days from its effectivity.