Lawmakers push changes to Epira

Lawmakers push changes to Epira

/ 05:50 AM July 08, 2024

READY FOR MORE JUICE Two boys in Caloocan City look at transmission cables of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, which said on June 24 it was ready to deliver more electricity to consumers. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

READY FOR MORE JUICE Two boys in Caloocan City look at transmission cables of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, which said on June 24 it was ready to deliver more electricity to consumers. —Grig C. Montegrande

MANILA, Philippines — Officials in the House of Representatives on Sunday backed a comprehensive review of the Electric Power Industry Regulation Act (Epira) to possibly bring down the cost of electricity in the country, acknowledging that Philippine rates were among the highest in Southeast Asia.

The House leaders issued a joint statement on Sunday to push for reforms in the Epira, or Republic Act No. 9136, which was passed in 2001 in a bid to resolve the power crisis of the 1990s and reduce the cost of electricity by privatizing the generation, transmission and distribution assets of the power sector.

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READ: Consumer group hits high power rates, bats for Epira amendment

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After 23 years, however, the Epira has also been blamed for the country’s energy problems, including high electricity rates and spotty power supply, as shown by the shortage experienced at the peak of El Niño in the first quarter.

Top House leaders

The House statement was signed by Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Deputy Speaker David Suarez, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, as well as majority lawmakers Inno Dy V, Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, Raul Angelo Bongalon, Zia Alonto Adiong, Francisco Paolo Ortega V, Jefferson Khonghun, Mikaela Angela Suansing, Joel Chua, Margarita Nograles and Cheeno Miguel Almario.

The majority of lawmakers maintained it was time to bring down the cost of electricity in the county, which was among the highest in Southeast Asia, and potentially achieve energy security for the country.

According to the chamber leaders, “We fully support this move by our leader in the House. If we can finally reduce the cost of electricity, this would be one of the legacies of our Speaker [Martin Romualdez] and the chamber he heads,” noting that RA 9136 has not been reviewed since it was passed in 2001.

Possible amendments to the Epira have been included among priority measures identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) on June 25.

Romualdez said during the Ledac meeting that the House would try to finish the Epira amendments before Congress goes into its Christmas break.

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Included in Ledac agenda

He said the legislative agenda included 28 bills and eight of the 18 top priority measures were already in advanced stages.

Aside from Epira reforms, the priority bills included three tax measures (the excise tax on single-use plastics, CREATE MORE, and value-added taxes on digital services); rationalization of fiscal incentives for the mining sector; and the addition of yet another department to the bureaucracy that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would “right-size” when he was campaigning.

The lawmakers said, “It’s time we alleviate or at least lessen, the suffering of our people. Congress should address the issues created by the Epira,” adding that should the House, under the leadership of Romualdez, succeed in bringing down electricity costs, it would have achieved what past Congresses failed to do.

“That achievement then would be one of the legacies of our Speaker and his present colleagues in the House,” they pointed out.

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The lawmakers further said, “The expansion of our economy has long been hobbled by high electricity rates. This problem has consistently been one of the top concerns of the business community since the enactment of Epira.”

TAGS: Epira Law, House of Representatives

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