MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading a bill granting a 25-year franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan (SPSB) Corporation, which was founded by Senator Loren Legarda’s son, Leandro Leviste.
Lawmakers voted 198-7-1 in favor of House Bill (HB) 8179 on Monday, December 10, just 6 days after they approved the measure on 2nd reading on December 4. This means HB 8179’s passage at the House was swift, lasting only 4 months.
The measure has to go through another 3 readings at the Senate before it can be signed into law.
HB 8179 would allow SPSB to operate, “in the public interest and for commercial purposes,” distributable power technologies and mini grid systems to provide electric 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 SPSB. Fifteen lawmakers filed a resolution opposing HB 8179 and called for its return to the legislative franchises panel for further deliberations.
The legislators argued 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 SPSB monopolizing the sector. Buhay Representative Lito Atienza also said he was wary that the firm might be later sold to foreigners.
Rural electric cooperatives staunchly oppose HB 8179 as well, arguing that it would “violate” their franchise areas and go against EPIRA.
The Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance and the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) also questioned the real motive of SPSB. The franchise is meant for commercial purposes – as with others and as indicated in the bill – yet SPSB said it is eyeing unviable areas.
Philreca also accused SPSB of charging rates from P10.40 kilowatts per hour (kWh) to P15.31 kWh, but Leviste called this a lie.
“That is an absolute falsehood. The 12 out of 12 barangay captains of Paluan, Occidental Mindoro, have participated in a forum with Congressman Art Yap and Congressman Lito Atienza, who have brought the group of electric coops. The barangay captains not only affirmed we are charging P8 per kWh for the first 40 kWh of consumption for all of the customers in Paluan, moreover that we have been giving much better service than previous service providers in the area,” Leviste said on December 4.
Prior to HB 8179’s passage, Leviste and his father, ex-Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, had been regularly attending the plenary sessions. Both were seen speaking to several lawmakers, including the bill’s sponsor and co-author, Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap.
Leviste insists his mother did not help lobby for the passage of HB 8179 in the House, saying that the measure’s approval was based on his firm’s “own merits.” – Rappler.com
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