Bill extending PSALM corporate life backed, rejected

Published October 6, 2021, 4:02 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) may soon have its life extension approved.

House of Representatives lawmakers along with government officials from the energy sector, on Wednesday, October 6, discussed the advantages and disadvantages of extending the corporate life of the PSALM during the House Committee on Energy hearing chaired by Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Juan Miguel Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo has already filed House Bill 10006 which calls for extending the corporate life of and strengthening the power assets and liabilities management corporations under the government and amending Republic Act No. 9136 or Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.

PSALM, which was created by the EPIRA Act, is a government-owned and controlled corporation mandated to manage the orderly sale, disposition, and privatization of the National Power Corporation (NPC) generation assets, real estate and other disposable assets, and Independent Power Producer contracts with the objective of liquidating all NPC financial obligations and stranded contract costs in an optimal manner. Its corporate life of 25 years is due to expire in June 2026.

PSALM president and CEO Atty. Irene Joy Besido-Garcia during the committee hearing said the government corporation needs a longer life so that it can implement contracts from the NPC as well as PSALM contracts expiring beyond 2026, continue the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant Complex, privatize remaining power assets and real estate assets, liquidate remaining financial obligations from NPC, secure better borrowing terms from lender banks, fully utilize the P208B Murang Kuryente fund allocation and litigate pending cases involving Independent Power Producer Administrators (IPPAs) that remain in the courts.

Resource persons led by NPC Vice President for Corporate Affairs Group Rene Barruela, Department of Energy (DOE) director Mario Marasigan, Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Assistant Director Gina Brillantes, Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) Director Johann Barcena, Atty. Maria Adela Ching of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Philippine Independent Power Producers Association Inc. (PIPPA) president and executive director Atty. Anne Estorco Montelibano gave their full support to the life extension of PSALM.

Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, in his interpellation, questioned the proposed corporate life extension of PSALM which he said has failed to do its mandate.

“If PSALM failed to do it in the past two decades or 20 years, what is the assurance that it will solve the problem and achieve its objectives as laid down under EPIRA?” said Zarate, who also asked why PSALM needs a 50-year life extension.

The Davao-based solon also decried the privatization of state-owned assets which have been acquired by private corporations.

Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) Partylist Rep. Sergio Dagooc, for this part, said that PSALM doesn’t need a 50-year extension and it isn’t the appropriate government agency who should manage the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant.

Committee on Energy vice-chairperson and Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA) Partylist Rep. Presley De Jesus, on the other hand, gave his support for the approval of Arroyo’s bill but expressed alarm on the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant Complex’s possible privatization.

The committee also called for a Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting. (Melvin Sarangay)