By MYRNA M. VELASCO
The budget of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to bring electricity access even to the remotest villages (barangays) of the country had been jacked up to ₱2.299 billion this 2020, up by ₱768 million from last year’s ₱1.531 billion.
NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said the allocation boost could help the government step up on the targeted full electrification of the country until the end of the Duterte administration in 2022.
Of the earmarked energization funding, the biggest fraction in the pie at ₱1.398 billion will be channeled to the second phase of the government-underpinned Sitio Electrification Program (SEP).
According to the electrification agency, that allocation was slightly higher than last year’s budget of ₱1.162 billion for the sitio electrification undertaking.
In addition, NEA indicated that ₱500 million will be set aside for the implementation of the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) Act under Republic Act 11039.
It has to be recalled that the electric cooperatives waded through several natural calamities last year – and despite the massive damage their facilities had been exposed to, they were not able to bank on the ECERF funding due to timing mismatch in the budgeting process under the General Appropriations Act.
NEA said the amount is still lower than the ₱750 million that was supposed to be mandated under the law. The amount has to be carved out from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF).
As designed, NEA emphasized that the emergency fund had been intended to apportion “orderly and continuing means of financial assistance to ECs in the form of grants for the immediate restoration or rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure after a fortuitous event or force majeure.”
Beyond that, NEA also secured P100 million as “Quick Response Fund,” which will then serve as standby funding “for replacement, reconstruction, rehabilitation or repair of distribution facilities in the aftermath of calamities.”
With that initial allotment and the provision for emergency fund, Masongsong intimated that such sets “recognition of the key role that rural electrification plays in spurring social and economic growth, creating employment and improving the living conditions of Filipinos in the countryside.”
Another key item in the agency’s allocation this year is the provision of ₱45 million for the setting up of “Customer Management and Quick Response System” for selected electric cooperatives, primarily Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative, Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Tablas Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. – that were extended a subsidy of ₱15 million each.