MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on 2nd reading a bill granting a 25-year franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation, which was founded by Senator Loren Legarda’s son, Leandro Leviste.
Lawmakers gave their nod to House Bill (HB) 8179 with a vote of ayes and nays on Tuesday, December 4. This means the measure will have to go through one final and 3rd reading before it successfully hurdles the House.
It’s a long way to go for the bill, however. The measure has go through another 3 readings at the Senate before it can be signed into law.
HB 8179 would allow Solar Para sa Bayan to operate, “in the public interest and for commercial purposes,” distributable power technologies and mini grid systems to provide electirc power to customers and end-users in “areas to be determined by the Department of Energy, including unserved [areas] and underserved areas throughout the Philippines.”
Several lawmakers, however, strongly opposed granting the franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan. Fifteen lawmakers had filed a resolution opposing HB 8179 and called for its return to the legislative franchises panel for further deliberations.
The legislators argue that several provisions under HB 8179 are unconstitutional and are contrary to the provisions of Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).
Nueva Ecija 3rd District Representative Rosanna Vergara also said the bill would lead to Solar Para sa Bayan monopolizing the sector. Buhay Representative Lito Atienza also said on Tuesday that he was wary that Solar Para sa Bayan might be later sold to foreigners.
No lobbying from Legarda?
Prior HB 8179’s passage on 2nd reading, Leviste and his father, ex-Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, had been regularly attending the plenary session. Both were seen speaking to several lawmakers, including the bill’s sponsor and co-author, Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap.
On Tuesday, Leviste clarified his mother did not help lobby for the passage of HB 8179 in the House.
“So pinagbubuti namin po para maipakita na walang kinalaman ang kung sinuman po mga kamag-anak ninuman dito (We have been working hard to show that none of our relatives had anything to do with this). This is purely on the basis of merit that we hope we and the many others that can later benefit from these same privileges can extend the best service at the lowest cost the Filipino people,” said Leviste.
Reporters also asked Leviste to justify the need to grant Solar Para sa Bayan a nationwide franchise, when the Epira law already allows qualified third-parties to enter isolated or unserved areas.
“‘Yong finafranchise natin, unang-una, ay hindi para sa Solar lamang. Ito ay mini grid na nagse-serve sa hindi lang sa isang buhay kung hindi mga municipalities, mga larger areas, with its own integrated systems,” said Leviste.
(What are franchising here is not just for Solar. This would be for mini grids that would serve not just one life, but municipalities, larger areas, with its own integrated systems)
“So ngayon, puwede na kami magtayo ng mga solar mini grids at importante po, wala pong gastos ang gobyerno na ito kumpara sa kasalukuyan na umaabot po sa P50 billion per year ang binabayad nating lahat sa subsidies to electric utilities. Sa ilalim ng ating proposal, makakatipid na tayong lahat ng P50 billion per year at mas mabilis pa ang ating aksyon,” he added.
(So now, we would be able to build solar mini grids and more importantly, the government would not have to spend for anything, including the P50 billion per year it pays in subsidies to electric utilities. Under our proposal, we all be able to save P50 billion per year and our response would be faster.) – Rappler.com
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