Poe: Amending Public Service Act will solve power blackouts, rate hikes

Published June 7, 2021, 1:35 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe said the proposed amendment to the Public Service Act will address the rotational blackouts and the expected increase in electricity bills.

Senator Grace Poe (Office of Sen. Grace Poe/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Poe, chairperson of the Senate Public Service Committee, raised concern on Monday, June 7, that the power issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic “could be a triple whammy too much for our people’s forbearance.”

“Why should the Filipino consumers pay more for electricity that comes intermittently and is among the highest rates in Southeast Asia?” Poe said in a statement.

“We cannot be literally groping in the dark as we fight the unseen virus and manage to live through the new normal of strict quarantines,” she added.

The senator said authorities should have anticipated the increase in the demand for electricity during the dry season, and should have “continuously addressed with a comprehensive energy program that will also look into the capabilities of private distributors and sources of power.”

Poe said amending the country’s Public Service Act “will lead to improved services and lower cost of basic services which our people badly need in this pandemic.”

“Access to reliable and affordable energy is essential not only for addressing the pandemic, but also for accelerating recovery and building back better,” she pointed out.

Poe sponsored Senate Bill No 2094, which seeks to amend the 85-year-old Public Service Act to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of public utilities, which include power distribution.

She earlier explained that it will provide a “clearer differentiation” between the terms “public services” and “public utilities”, to free public services that are not considered natural monopolies from foreign equity restrictions.

She had assured that the bill will contain safeguards to protect national security, and at the same time improve services in the country.

“Welcoming foreign investors in the service sector will not only spur competition leading to better services, but it will also help provide more jobs to our countrymen amid the pandemic,” Poe said in a previous statement.

The measure, certified as urgent by President Duterte, is pending approval in the Senate.

Senators agreed to prioritize the bill when the 18th Congress’ third regular session opens in July.