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15 solons hit bill granting ‘illegal super franchise’ to solar power company

/ 12:45 PM September 13, 2018

(L-R) 1-Pacman Reps. Enrico Pineda and Michael Romero, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza at a press conference Thursday. Photo by Pathricia Ann V. Roxas / INQUIRER.net

A resolution questioning a bill granting “unconstitutional super franchise” to the Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. has been filed by a group of solons in the House of Representatives.

Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. is a solar energy provider founded by Leandro Leviste, son of Senator Loren Legarda.

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Lawmakers filed Wednesday House Resolution 2182 urging the committee on rules to revert back to the legislative franchise panel House Bill No. 8179 or an act granting the Solar Para sa Bayan a franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.

Leviste is also the founder of Solar Philippines, Southeast Asia’s largest solar energy provider.

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The resolution was filed by Reps. Ricardo Belmonte, Virgilio Lacson, Tedoro Montoro, Michael Romero, Enrico Pineda, Arnel Ty, Sabiniano Canama, Jose “Lito” Atienza, Ron Salo, Ciriaco Calalang, Carlos Roman Uybarreta, Salvador Belaro, Benhur Salimbangon, Manuel Dalope and Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay.

In a press conference Thursday, Atienza said the approval of the committee report for House Bill Nos. 8013 and 8015– which sought to grant the franchise to the company– was “railroaded.”

“Nung ni-railroad nila, alam ko meron nang irregularity,” he said.

On Aug. 29, the legislative franchises panel held its first and only deliberation on the bills, according to the resolution.

Just four days after, the panel approved the committee report and House Bill 8179, the substitute bill for the proposed measures on Sept. 3.

The resolution also said there were congressmen “who intended to participate in the deliberations of the bill but were not able to do so due to the apparent haste in passing the bill.”

‘Unconstitutional super franchise’

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Romero, who was also in the same briefing, branded it as a “super franchise” that was “unconstitutional” and violated existing rules under Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Industry Reform Act (Epira).

“Gusto niyang magtayo ng mini grids all around the Philippines. So pag nagtayo siya ng mini grids meron siyang power of Eminent domain… Papatayin niya lahat ng electric coops, ng distribution unit, ng IPPs, even the transmission lines, he will kill it because he has his own. So this is a super franchise. This is a hundred billion peso worth of a franchise,” he said.

Granting the franchise to the company would “allow it to infringe on the franchise of distribution utilities,” the resolution added.

Section 59 of the Epira Law provides that only those which are in remote and unviable villages that the franchise utility is unable to service for any reason shall be opened to other qualified third parties.”

“The bill grants Solar the right to participate in each sector (i.e. generation, transmission, distribution, and supply) of the electric power industry without limitation as to the scope and as to territory,” the resolution reads.

This, it added, is contrary to the principle of the equal protection of the laws under Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

“Kaya nga itong undue advantage na to kailangan tignan talaga, kung meron ba talaga o wala. So, sa nakikita po namin sa request po nila e talagang kaya nilang patayin ang buong sector dahil they can charge the lowest rate because of those tax break,” Pineda said.

“Siyempre gusto natin ang murang kuryente pero wag naman at the expense of the other electric companies that have invested billions of pesos,” he added.

Legarda has not reached out regarding the said franchise, Atienza said.

But he said some common friends “tried to lobby” for the franchise. “But we are not swayed by any lobbying,” Atienza added.

Not about Legarda

Romero said the issue was not about Legarda or them but about the possible “monopoly” the franchise could produce.

“Actually we are not, this is not against Loren Legarda or the Senator Legarda or us no. This is 100 percent of the electric power sector, 100 percent ha not just, not 80, not 90 but 100 percent against this bill because it will give undue advantage to one corporation. This is practically a monopoly. So kami naman walang personalan, trabaho lang ito,” he said.

“We’re only bringing it now to the public because there was a threat of railroading. This effort is meant to pre-empt any more railroading of this issue,” Atienza added.

INQUIRER.net has reached Legarda’s office for comment but she has yet to respond as of posting time.

The proposed measure also faced strong resistance from some electric cooperatives which had accused Solar Para sa Bayan of skirting the power reform law by obtaining a legislative franchise.

READ: Co-ops slam bill granting Leviste a national franchise for solar firm

In response, Leviste had said his company— which would establish solar-battery mini-grids— would spur competition and help 200,000 Filipinos in 12 towns across the country.

“If the mere specter of competition inspires electric utilities to improve their services, that is an affirmation of the need for healthy competition,” he said in an earlier statement.

“We believe consumers should be given new choices for better service at lower cost, especially if it means zero government subsidies and does not prejudice the nonexclusive right of anyone else to offer even better options to consumers,” he also said.   /muf

READ: Solar firm wants to end ‘complacency’ among electric co-ops

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TAGS: House of Representatives, Leviste, Local news, Philippine news updates, resolution, Solar Para sa Bayan, Solar Para sa Bayan Corp., Solar Philippines
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