House panel OKs bill extending for another 20 years subsidized power rate for poor consumers

The House Committee on Energy approved on Thursday a bill that would extend for another 20 years the implementation of the lifeline rate or subsidized electricity services for low-income users.

In a virtual committee hearing, the House panel unanimously approved the consolidation of two House bills proposing the extension of the lifeline rate implementation until 2041.

Presided over by PHILRECA Party-list Rep. Presley de Jesus, the hearing was attended by representatives of key energy agencies of the government.

The Department of Energy, represented by Director Mario Marasigan, as well as Energy Regulatory Commission’s engineer Alvin Ortigan strongly backed the legislative proposal.

The energy panel approved a motion to consolidate two measures seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

RA 9136 provides that the socialized pricing mechanism called the lifeline rate be granted to marginalized electric consumers.

The ERC was tasked to implement the socialized cost of power from 2001 to 2021.

Lawmakers emphasized the importance of passing the measure that will benefit low-income users with subsidized electricity, saying that passage will further cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on them.

Valenzuela Rep. Wesley Gatchalian, author of House Bill 7341, said that originally the lifeline rate was to be implemented for a period of ten years from 2001. Before the grant of the lower power rates for the poor could expire, the 15th Congress extended the implementation of the scheme for another 10 years by passing Republic Act No. 10150.

“This bill will extend the lifeline rate for an additional 20 years or up to 2041. This will ensure continuity of the crucial assistance to low income electricity consumers enabling them to access electricity and improve their lives,” said Gatchalian.