Senators push to review Epira amid repeated power outages
MANILA, Philippines —Power outages in parts of the country are prompting senators to review the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).
Epira declared that the State should accelerate the national electrification.
Senator Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on cooperatives, called for the law’s review and the overhaul of electric cooperatives.“Time to overhaul electric coops and review the EPIRA law, specifically the role and leadership of electric cooperatives are concerned,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, told reporters in a message that they will discuss possible amendments to the Epira to make power rates affordable during the committee on energy hearing on Wednesday.
“It has been twenty-one years since we passed the Epira. If we need to review and amend it to respond to the condition of the times, we are prepared to do so. It is now ripe for review,” Zubiri said during his privilege speech on Monday’s plenary session, citing power rate increases in Mindanao.
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, likewise lamented the costs the consumers have to shoulder.
“Almost every increase is passed on to our consumers. This has been the practice, and our people bear the brunt. It’s almost no risk to the providers,” Poe said in her interpellation, seeking to summon the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) during the hearing to address the issue.
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Raffy Tulfo questioned the power rate hikes and sought the review of electric cooperatives.
“This amendment to the Epira, we’re open to this basta (as long as it is) for the good of the people. Sana may (I hope there will be) immediate relief din (also) that can be felt by our people kasi (because) when you talk of inflation kasama ito (this is included),” Pimentel said.
“I think it’s about time na kailangan ma-review po ang performance nitong mga kooperatiba. What have they been doing? What are they doing? And what has been done para (to) ma-address ‘yung mga problema (the problems), especially sa (of) brownout,” Tulfo, who filed a bill seeking an investigation on the matter, said.
For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros is looking forward to the continued discussion on the matter and raised the possibility of having a new law that will benefit consumers.
“Naglo-look forward po talaga kami sa patuloy na diskusyon para singilin ang mga pangako ng Epira at mag-reshape o mag-shape ng bagong batas na magde-deliver ng dekalidad at murang kuryente sa ating mga kababayan na kasama po doon ay itinataguyod ang papel ng mga electrical cooperatives at pinalalaki yung share ng renewable energy sa ating energy mix,” she said.
(We are looking forward to the continued discussion to claim the promises of Epira and reshape or shape a new law that would deliver quality and affordable electricity, which includes the role of electrical cooperatives and increasing the share of renewable energy in our energy mix.)
Senator Pia Cayetano — chair of the committee on sustainable development goals, innovation, and futures thinking — also interpellated and cited the Sustainable Development Goal 7: “We should think of all of those together: affordable, reliable, and sustainable.”
For Gatchalian, the issue is with the “existing contracts entered by the utilities both private utilities as well as electric cooperatives.”
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, meantime, said that the National Electrification Administration and the ERC “should do their share of the workload in doing the necessary reviews.”
Noting his colleagues’ sentiments, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva then moved to refer Zubiri’s privilege speech to the committee on energy.