THE House committee on energy chaired by Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco has approved a substitute bill that seeks to reduce electricity rates by allocating the government’s share from the Malampaya Fund for the payment of the stranded contract costs and stranded debts of the National Power Corporation (NPC).

The still unnumbered bill, to be known as the “Murang Kuryente Act” stemmed from House Bills 8082, 8327 and HB 8352.

According to 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Inc. (1-CARE) Party-list Rep Carlos Roman Uybarreta, the vice chair of the House energy panel and the principal author of the measure, there could be a 57-centavo per kwh cut in electricity billings when the Malampaya subsidy becomes effective.

The bill states that a “portion from all the proceeds of the net national government share from the Malampaya Fund amounting to P123 billion shall be allocated solely for the payment of the NPC stranded costs and stranded debts transferred to and assumed by the PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management) pursuant to Section 49 of the Republic Act No. 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001).”

The stranded costs of NPC refers to “the excess of the contracted cost of electricity under eligible contracts over the actual selling price of the contracted energy output of such contracts in the market.”

The stranded cost is part of the universal charges in electricity billings.

Stranded debts of the NPC is defined as "any unpaid financial obligations of NPC which have not been liquidated by the proceeds from the sales and privatization of NPC assets."

"If all goes well, the House can have the Murang Kuryente Act passed on 2nd reading this week and 3rd & final reading the following week before House adjourns session on February 6,” Uybarreta said.

Bayan Muna Party-list expressed its opposition to the bill.

The group’s chair, Neri Colmenares, said the bill will circumvent the law governing the fund and divert the Malampaya funds to the executive through the Napocor so that it can use the fund for their purposes.

"Para tuloy hinayaan lang natin na lustayin ang Malampaya funds ng ganun na lang. Lalo pa kapag inover value nila ang stranded cost ng Napocor. While it is good that we want to lower the rate of electricity but corporations should not be the ones to benefit from the taxpayers money," added Colmenares.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, for his part urged the Commission on Audit to investigate the rise in the government subsidies for the missionary areas.

According to Zarate, the missionary subsidies are charged to the electric consumers nationwide as a Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification (UCME).

It was P0.0454 per kwh in 2010 and increased to P0.1561 in 2015. Napocor had asked for an increase to P0.1948 per kwh, he claimed.

“We are calling on the Department of Energy, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Power Corp., and the National Electrification Administration and the COA to urgently look into the 300% increase in missionary subsidies in larger islands still served by the Napocor from only P3.5 Billion in 2015 to P14.13 Billion in 2020,” he said.

“That is a jump of P10.13 Billion in 5 years in islands like Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Catanduanes, Tablas, and Romblon where power use grew only 34%,” he added.

"Bakit sa halip na bumaba ay lalong tumaas ang subsidy? Baka dito lang mapunta ang Malampaya funds kung sakali," he further said.

In November 2018, Zarate filed House Resolution 2287 to look into the increasing missionary subsidies which resulted to the increased universal charge to electric consumers.

"We already filed House Resolution 2287 to look into this matter and we hope that the taxpayer's money would not just go to unscrupulous groups and indivuduals,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)