The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is seeking collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the review and updating of the list of beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which will also be the basis for the grant of subsidies or discounted electricity rates to marginalized end-users.
According to ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, they have not finalized yet the roll of power consumers who can be given lifeline rate subsidies under Republic Act 11552, or the law that extends the rate discounts to the power electricity consumers for a period of 50 years.
“Until such time that the DSWD has finalized the parameters or approved it, it will be difficult for ERC to make the computations,” the ERC chief stressed.
At this stage, she noted that the main agreement between the ERC and DSWD is to purge from the list of lifeliners the consumers who are living in condominium units as well as those in gated communities.
“We did that with DSWD – the consumers shall be not residing in gated communities; they should not be in condos. We already have a draft and we already sent it back to DSWD, but that’s still a work-in-progress,” she narrated.
The law stretching the lifeline rate subsidy for five (5) decades, specifically stipulated that “in order to provide assistance to electricity consumers, especially those living below the poverty line, and to achieve a more equitable distribution of the lifeline subsidy, a socialized pricing mechanism called a ‘lifeline rate’ for qualified marginalized end-users shall be set by the ERC.”
The determination of the subsidy rates to be extended to the qualified marginalized end-users had been vested as an authority to be exercised by the ERC, being the regulator of the restructured power industry.
As specified in the law, “the level of consumption, subsidy and rate shall be determined by the ERC after due notice and hearing.”
On establishing the database of Filipino consumers that may be eligible to avail of the stretched lifeline rate discounts, the law decreed that the ERC “shall primarily use data from the PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) in the determination of the level of consumption.”
In the initial implementation of lifeline rate subsidy under Section 73 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the tariff discounts ranged from 25 to 75-percent depending on the magnitude of power usage of the marginalized end-user or poor household customer – and the consumption range considered had been from zero to 100 kilowatt-hours.
For the extended lifeline rate subsidy, it was propounded that the ERC shall make use of the qualified household-beneficiaries that are already in the register of the 4Ps initiative of the government.
The 4P list is under the supervision of the DWSD; while the PSA has been updating ‘poverty threshold’ on a per-province and per-district level in local governments.
The validation of qualified customer-beneficiaries shall also be done with the help of the servicing distribution utilities (DUs), such as that of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and other private DUs as well as electric cooperatives.