It is a rather embarrassing fact that rates for electricity consumption in the Philippines are actually much pricier than they have to be. That is because consumers are forced to shoulder the payment of debts incurred by the National Power Corporation through “universal charges” tacked onto their monthly electric bills across the nation. This situation would theoretically force Filipinos using electricity to pay for more than their actual consumption for years or decades. Legislators have long looked for some means to alleviate that burden, and a recently-signed new law might just be the possible solution.
The Manila Bulletin reports that President Rodrigo Duterte had signed, last week, a law that would remove the subsidy payment of the National Power Corporation’s debt on the monthly power bills of Filipino consumers. The aptly named “Murang Kuryente Act” or Republic Act 11371 received the President’s signature on August 8, and was publicized this Tuesday, August 13, by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the bill’s primary sponsor in the upper house of Congress. With the new law the debts incurred by the NPC, originally subsidized into the monthly charges of electricity consumers in the country, will be paid for by the Malampaya natural gas project Fund.
As stated in the text of the Murang Kuryente Act, the state shall institute as policy to ensure that electrical power consumers in the Philippines get reliable, secure, and above all affordable electricity supply. This will be through programs that will make electricity pricing transparent and reasonable by eliminating as much as possible all universal charges to pay off NPC and government debts. To this end, some P208 billion from the Malampaya Fund net share to the Philippine government will be geared towards the payment of all “stranded” contract costs.
In a sample calculation presented by Senator Gatchalian, with Republic Act 11371 in place, a Filipino family consuming 200 kilowatt/hours of power in a month will see P172 reduced from their total monthly billing. On the greater scale, if the P208 billion from the Malampaya fund fully pays off the NPC debt obligations before running out, then what remains of the sum will be geared to developing programs and funding exploration for new energy resources. The Senator had long proposed that funds from Malampaya natural gas project in offshore Palawan could be utilized in lowering monthly electricity charges for Filipinos.
Aside from the Murang Kuryente Act, President Duterte also put his signature on a complementary legislation, the Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act that would provide for the maintenance and rehabilitation of electrical infrastructure such as lines for transmission, sub-transmission and distribution. Gatchalian notes it will be a boon for quickly upgrading or repairing major power lines that might be cut during natural calamities such as the ongoing monsoon rainy season.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News