Senate body to tackle bill providing P750M fund for power co-ops
The Senate committee on energy will start its deliberations next week on a measure seeking the establishment of a P750-million fund for electric cooperatives.
The hearing of the committee is scheduled next Thursday, January 19, its chairman, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, said on Wednesday.
Gatchalian said that under Senate Bill No. 1253 otherwise known as the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act, a P 750-million fund would be established to provide financial assistance to electric cooperatives “for restoration and rehabilitation of power facilities and infrastructure damaged during typhoons, earthquakes, and other instances of natural calamities and fortuitous events.”
“Without a dedicated funding source for disaster repairs and rehabilitations, electric cooperatives have no choice but to seek interest-bearing calamity loans from NEA (National Electrification Administration),” he said in a statement.
“These calamity loans can take as long as two years to be converted into grants, and sometimes the loans are not converted at all due to budgetary constraints,” the senator added.
Gatchalian pointed out that at present, electric co-ops often have no choice but to pass on the costs of these calamity loans to consumers, resulting in higher power rates for people who are already struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of a calamity.
“Essentially, it’s like handing out relief goods to calamity survivors and then asking them to pay for them later. This is a problem that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Aside from disaster restoration and rehabilitation efforts, he said, the fund would be used also to finance disaster prevention, preparedness, and mitigation projects to be undertaken by electric cooperatives, including disaster vulnerability risk assessments and institutionalization of emergency response plans.
“The best medicine is always prevention. Therefore, the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act also aims to equip electric cooperatives with the resources they need to minimize damage caused by future storms and other natural disasters through the exercise of foresight and diligence,” the senator added. IDL
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