Published January 11, 2017, 10:00 PM by Hannah L. Torregoza
The Senate committee on energy is set to hold its first hearing into the proposed establishment of a P750-million fund for electric cooperatives to help in the rehabilitation and restoration of power services damaged during a disaster.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, head of the energy panel, said deliberations on Senate Bill No. 1253, otherwise known as the proposed Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act, would start on Thursday next week. The Senate resumes sessions starting Monday, Jan. 16.
Gatchalian said the bill aims to shore up the resiliency of the country’s electric cooperatives against the constant barrage of natural disasters that often wreak havoc on electricity infrastructure throughout the countryside.
The bill specifically seeks the creation of a R750-million fund that would 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.
The senator said that without a dedicated funding source for disaster repair and rehabilitation, electric cooperatives have no choice but to seek interest-bearing calamity loans from the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
He said these calamity loans could take as long as two years to be converted into grants. Sometimes the loans are not converted at all due to budgetary constraints.
“Under the current system, 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,” Gatchalian said.
“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,” said Gatchalian.
Apart from disaster restoration and rehabilitation efforts, the fund would also be utilized for disaster prevention, preparedness, and mitigation projects that electric cooperatives will undertake