Solon to ‘exhaust all legal remedies’ to block Solar Para sa Bayan’s operation
MANILA, Philippines — Two party-list lawmakers vowed Thursday to exhaust all legal remedies to oppose the operation of Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPSB), including questioning it before the Supreme Court, even if President Rodrigo Duterte had already signed the franchise of the renewable energy provider.
“We will exhaust all the possible legal remedies na para mai-stop ‘yung operation ng Solar Para sa Bayan,” Rural Electronic Consumers and Beneficiaries of Development and Advancement, Inc. (Recoboda) Rep. Gudofredo Guya said during the weekly forum of the party-list coalition in the House.
Other party-list lawmakers were also calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the proposed law granting renewable energy distribution franchise to the company owned by 25-year-old Leandro Leviste, son of Senator Loren Legarda.
But after the press conference, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Sec. Adelino Sitoy confirmed that the franchise was already approved by the President Wednesday through Republic Act No. 11357.
Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca) Rep. Presley De Jesus insisted that the “superfranchise” bill should be rejected as it “violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.”
“They were granted with superfranchise generation, transfer, distribute, supply… eh kaming distribution utilities, dun lang kami, sa Solar sinakop nila lahat,” De Jesus said.
“Yes, we’ve been praying for that, sana ma-veto at mapag-aralan naitn ng husto at this time sa mainvolve kami, kasi for the longest time hindi kami nasasama sa deliberation nyan at hindi kami na-invite,” he added.
De Jesus bared their initial plan to elevate their concerns to the High Court.
“The fight for the ECs (electric cooperatives) and MCOs (member-consumers-owners) has not ended; we will definitely elevate the matter to the Supreme Court,” said the representative of the 121 electric cooperatives in the country.
Ako Padayon Rep. Adriano Ebcas meanwhile clarified that they are not against SPSB but House Bill No. 8179’s “railroading” in both chambers of Congress without proper consultation and deliberation.
“We are not totally against the Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation but what we are trying to say na sana dumaan ito ng due process at saka napagbigyan ng mga players to participate in this bill pero ang nangyari, this was railroaded eh,” Ebcas said.
In 2018, several lawmakers have also blocked the approval of the proposed measure, which they claimed permits an “unconstitutional super franchise” to SPSB, and violates the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.
The bill grants the SPSB a 25-year franchise to “construct, install, establish, operate, and maintain distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.” It was filed on August 2018 and was ratified by Congress on June 2019.
In a previous interview, Leviste already debunked allegations that the grant of the franchise to his company was bound to create a monopoly.
“The allegations being thrown are completely false… The bill has always had a non-exclusivity clause in it and inulit na nga sa other parts of the bill,” the senator’s son said.
“The Constitution itself says no franchise should be exclusive so even if it were, it would be stricken down in courts… There is no legitimate argument against depriving Filipinos of choice,” he added.
Leviste also said in a statement that SPSB’s entry in the electric industry would spur competition and help Filipinos across the country.
“We believe consumers should be given new choices for better service at a 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 said. /muf
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