Gatchalian dismayed at DOE’s failure to present total electrification plan in PH

By Hannah Torregoza

Senate Committee on Energy chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday expressed dismay at the Department of Energy (DOE) for its failure to present a total electrification plan for the Philippines.

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Gatchalian grilled DOE officials on the status of electrification of the country as the committee started tackling Senate Bill No. 175 or the proposed Microgrid Systems Act, that would spur micro-grid development in underserved and un-served areas nationwide.

The senator recalled he has been prodding the DOE to present to the Senate a copy of its master plan for the total electrification program since August last year.

“One of the most important reasons for the Department’s existence is to make sure that electricity is available in all of our households. And the target is 2022. Kung wala tayong strategy, hindi natin makakamit ang 2022 (If we don’t have any strategy, we cannot achieve the 2022 target),” Gatchalian pointed out during the hearing.

“2022 is fast approaching. Pinaguusapan natin ito (total electrification program) since 2018. We are waiting for your commitment but 2022 is fast approaching. We need to have that kind of strategy and we need that kind of budget,” he stressed.

Gatchalian said that, from 2016 to 2018, the government allocated P5.45-billion for “sitio” electrification and P3.97-billion for the supply of electricity in missionary areas. In addition, around P73-billion has been remitted from the universal charge for missionary electrification collection, as of December 2017.

But, as of December 2017, a total of 2,399,108, or 16 percent of households are still not connected to the power grid. Majority of this number can be found in Mindanao, while Luzon and the Visayas share the remaining half of the un-served households, respectively.

“Dahil in-identify niyo through different categories kung ano yung mga committees na walang kuryente and what type of technologies ang gagamitin for these communities. The next is how to reach those communities and how much do you need in order to reach those communities. Yun ang missing link ngayon,” he said.

Gatchalian said it was imperative that the country achieves a 100 percent electrification of all households, as some 2.3 million households still do not have any access to electricity.

“Sabi nila, nahirapan silang kumuha ng impormasyon sa mga kooperatiba at sa mga (According to them, they’re having difficulty getting information from electric cooperatives) and distribution utilities,” he said.

“Para sa akin, hindi dapat ganyan dahil mayroon silang kapangyarihan para pwersahin itong mga distribution utilities na magbigay ng plano (To me, that’s unacceptable, because they have the authority to compel distribution utilities to submit a plan),” he pointed out.

Gatchalian said if the DOE officials still cannot provide a copy of the total electrification program, he will invite Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi to personally ask about the status of the master plan.

“Dahil pangatlong hearing na ito mas mainam na si Sec. Cusi mismo ang magpaliwanag (Since this is the third hearing, it would be best if Secretary Cusi himself explains this to us),” he said.

“After one year wala pang strategy, mas magandang marinig natin sa kanya kung bakit na dedelay yung strategy (it’s best we hear it from him on why the electrification strategy is delayed),” he stressed.