‘Murang kuryente bill to benefit big firms’
MANILA, Philippines — The impending passage of the so-called “murang kuryente” bill, which seeks to use the P207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay off the debts of National Power Corp (Napocor), will only benefit big corporations, and will not ease the sufferings of consumers from the high cost of electricity, party list group Bayan Muna warned on Saturday.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed concern that the measure, which passed the bicameral committee in March, would only circumvent the law that governs the disposition of the Malampaya Fund.
“While we want to lower the rate of electricity, big corporations should not be the ones to benefit from the taxpayer money, including these proceeds from our finite natural resource,” he said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said the approval of the “murang kuryente (cheap electricity)” bill, would allow the use of the P207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay off Napocor’s debts, which are being passed on to consumers through the “universal charge” in their monthly electric bill.
This would mean savings of about P170 a month for households consuming 200 kilowatt-hours monthly, Gatchalian said.
Under the proposed law, around 60 to 70 percent of the Malampaya Fund will be used to pay for the stranded contract cost and debt repayment of Napocor, while the rest will be used to fund the exploration of alternative energy resources.
The funds will be transferred to Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., the entity created by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to handle the privatization and finances of Napocor.
The Malampaya Fund represents the government’s 60-percent share of the royalties from the $4.5-billion Malampaya natural gas project off Palawan province since 2002.
Fund diversion feared
The disposition of the Malampaya Fund has been embroiled in controversies, including a long-standing dispute between the provincial government of Palawan and the national government.
Zarate, however, warned that the law would allow the executive department to divert the Malampaya Fund and “use it at their own volition.”
“That is as if we have allowed the unscrupulous in government to just squander the Malampaya Fund, especially if they intentionally bloat the stranded costs of Napocor,” he said.
He said the Makabayan coalition voted against the “deceptive” measure as it feared this would “wipe out” the Malampaya Fund, since the natural gas reserve of Malampaya is supposedly close to being depleted in a few years.
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