Senator Grace Poe has stressed the importance of improving electricity services and lowering the rates in far-flung areas of Mindanao to pave the way for more investments and businesses in the region.
Poe made the pronouncement Wednesday, March 9 as the Senate Committee on Public Services, which she chairs, deliberated a House bill seeking to expand the franchise area of electricity distribution firm Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC).
The lawmaker noted that for the past five years, the demand for power in Mindanao has been peaking, something that she attributed to its growing economy.
“However, the power supply remains at a level that cannot keep up with the massive infrastructure and industry developments across the region,” she said.
“Frequent power outages and high power rates discourage more investments and businesses to come in,” she added.
Meanwhile, for Davao region, one of the regions of Mindanao, the lack of electricity also meant the lack of water supply, Poe said.
The lady senator said the hearing was conducted in response to the clamor for cheaper and better electricity service in some areas in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro.
Currently, DLPC supplies power for Davao City, as well as for Panabo City; and the municipalities of Carmen, Dujali, and Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.
House Bill (HB) No. 10554, the subject measure, seeks to expand the distribution utility’s services to Tagum City; the Island Garden City of Samal, Asuncion, Kapalong, New Corella, San Isidro, and Talaingod in Davao del Norte; and Maco in Davao de Oro.
During the hearing, local government officials and representatives from these provinces expressed their support for the expansion of DLPC’s services in their areas, saying their constituents have long suffered from “massive brownouts” and high electricity rates.
But the Northern Davao Electric Cooperative Inc. (Nordeco), which currently serves the areas eyed for the franchise expansion, opposed the bill.
The cooperative cited among others Republic Act (RA) No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which states that existing franchises must be allowed their full term.
But Poe said that the law does not prevent the Congress from granting franchises to another distribution utility.
For his part, Senator Bong Revilla Sen. expressed concern that expanding the franchise area of DLPC might create a monopoly of electrical supply in Davao del Norte.
But DLPC Executive Vice President Rodger Velasco assured lawmakers that they would provide affordable and reliable services to the residents and that they would monopolize the industry in the area.
“The role of Congress is to make sure that those granted a franchise are capable of providing the service that subscribers and the clients deserve, which is uninterrupted power in this case,” Poe said as she also tasked a technical working group to further discuss the bill before it can be tackled in the plenary.