Gatchalian warns DOE, NEA budget could end up as ‘pork’

Published November 12, 2019, 1:13 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday expressed concern that the budget for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) total electrification program could only end up as “pork.”

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

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, aired this concern ahead of the Senate’s scheduled deliberation on the proposed budget of the DOE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for the country’s total electrification program or TEP.

“We’ve been allocating billions of pesos to NEA and DOE for its electrification program and still, they always fail to meet their yearly targets,” Gatchalian lamented.

“What concerns me even more is how these agencies spend their budget since they still don’t have a defined and cohesive strategy on how they will pursue this program,” he said.

DOE is pushing for a P2.3-billion budget for 2020, P500 million of which will go to the national electrification program.

On the other hand, the NEA, DOE’s attached agency tasked to pursue total electrification of the country, is proposing a P14.147-billion budget for next year wherein P1.5-billion was being allotted for its TEP that includes the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP).

Gatchalian has been demanding that the DOE and the NEA submit their comprehensive national unified strategy in pursuing the country’s total electrification agenda to account for every centavo spent on the program.

“Kung mayroon sana tayong national unified strategy for electrification, ang bawat taxpayers sa bansa ay hindi mangangamba kung ang pera nila ay ginagamit lamang na slush fund ng dalawang ahensya (If we have a national unified strategy for electrification, each taxpayers in the country won’t be afraid if their money is being used merely as a slush fund by these two agencies),” he said.

Citing a 2018 Commission on Audit (COA) report, Gatchalian noted that of the total 450,000 households targeted for full electrification in 2018, the DOE, even with a P2.35-billion budget, was able to achieve only 77,121 or 17.14 percent.

He also noted that NEA was able to provide electricity to only 705 out of 1,259 areas as of September 30, 2019.

Gatchalian pointed out that having a national unified strategy means identifying the number of places to be electrified, budget needed for each place, total number of households targeted for each, timeline for electrification of chosen barangay and mode of electrification for each sitio, among others.

“Again, this is very elementary information that we need in order to achieve our goal of 100-percent electrification,” he pointed out.

“It is very difficult to allocate a big amount without a strategy,” Gatchalian stressed.